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May increased benefits bring improved service



Many Public Servants are this week beginning to get the feel of an early Christmas as Government makes the first of its payouts promised for pay hikes, reclassification and end-of-year bonus. These benefits were among several announced by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in his Independence address.{{more}} Public sector workers will be the main beneficiaries, but by no means the only ones, since pensioners, persons on public assistance and beleaguered banana farmers are also slated to benefit in one way or another.

In addition, it is expected that next month’s Budget 2008 will also bring more comforts in the form of tax relief, including on the VAT. This means an injection of millions of dollars into the economy via the pockets of the beneficiaries. The Prime Minister sees this as sharing the bounties of enhanced economic growth.

While undoubtedly these benefits will be greatly welcomed, there are different perspectives concerning them. By and large, supporters of the government view them as yet another indication of concern of the ULP administration for the welfare of its citizens, and another feather in its cap. The public sector unions, while not disputing this view, consider the payouts as rewards for proper representation and the fruits of staying committed to the collective bargaining process. Whatever their views on the politics of the administration, it is to their credit that they kept up the pressure for reclassification and fair recompense for their members. Hats off to them!

Now that the public purse has funded the increased benefits to the public sector workers in particular, but others as well, what can we, the taxpayers, expect in return?

If nothing else, the public is entitled to demand greater dedication to work on the part of public servants and the resultant increase in productivity. It is well known that the work ethic in the public service is in dire need of improvement, that taxpayers do not always get a fair day’s work for their tax dollars, that in many instances the fundamental issue of SERVICE to the public seems to get lost. Too many on the public payroll, at all levels – in the public service itself, in teaching, nursing or the Police Force – seem to forget that they are paid to serve the citizens of this country. Attitudes to the public are far short of courtesy and service.

The unions have a responsibility to lead the way in promoting new attitudes geared to efficiency and productivity. They have succeeded in one half of their duty – to bring greater benefits to their members. We now look for the same level of committedness and tenacity in fulfilling their public responsibilities.