Dear Editor: Indiscipline begins at the top, PM shouldn’t ‘pick on’ public servants

“[…] The late Gordon Draper, MP for Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West was given leave of absence for almost an entire Parliamentary term to pursue private business. MP Maxie Cuffie fell ill early in his Parliamentary term, was hospitalised for much of it, and suffered no loss of income.

“But wait! What about judges who ‘reserve judgement’ for lengthy periods while human beings rot in jail?

“[…] None of the above suffer economic inconvenience, regardless of their work ethic…”

The following Letter to the Editor on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s criticism of public servants who ‘abuse’ the anti-Covid-19 rotation policy to skip work altogether was submitted to Wired868 by Rae Samuel of Couva:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(via PNM)

“Some workers are not bothering to show up and there was a general free for all. Those who did not show up would be deemed absent and would not get paid.”

These statements were attributed to the prime minister by the newspapers recently. And one can only think: ‘What a convenient memory loss; what historic amnesia!’

The late Gordon Draper, MP for Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West was given leave of absence for almost an entire Parliamentary term to pursue private business. MP Maxie Cuffie fell ill early in his Parliamentary term, was hospitalised for much of it, and suffered no loss of income.

But wait! What about judges who ‘reserve judgement’ for lengthy periods while human beings rot in jail?

Where is this anxiety for performance when ‘part heard matters’ to a large extent remain unheard while prisoners serve decades in Remand Yard? Do they face intimidation from the highest office holder?

Why does the prime minister not threaten the president re: proclamation of the Procurement Legislation bill?

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) addresses Chief Justice Ivor Archie during her inauguration ceremony at NAPA on 19 March 2018.
(Copyright Office of the President)

None of the above suffer economic inconvenience, regardless of their work ethic. And recently the chief justice seems to have found out that the judiciary is in shambles—something the man in the street and the Law Association have been telling him for much of the last 18 months; and have been suggesting that he has made significant contributions to its collapse.

But let us go back to the public servant from whom ‘so much is being expected while so little is given’. He or she may be on contract; in some instances month to month and, in others with even longer cycles, for years. I do not know of anyone willing to go the extra mile under such conditions.

Some near retirement know that ‘ketch arse’ awaits them to collect their benefits. Retired public servants and teachers have to follow their pension files for fear it falls through the cracks.

Public sector wages have been effectively frozen since 2013. Did the said prime minister hear his Finance minister say that vacancies would not be filled in the public sector? That means all promotions, reclassifications and such upgrades are effectively on hold.

The only incentive a worker has under a capitalist system is wages. Is it not neo-slavery to demand more from him or her for less and less?

Photo: TTUTA leads teachers on a demonstration.

Let us remember that these ‘heartless slackers’ are on full pay since 2013. What is the rate of inflation since then? These ‘conscienceless workers’ have to deal with the crises brought on by the Covid pandemic, of which the home schooling situation is a perfect example.

Let us be clear. The attacks on the working class have been ongoing for the last five or six years. Whether it be the wage freeze policy, the closure of State companies, the steady retrenchment in both sectors, the attacks on the Industrial court, the removal of subsidies, the flight of foreign capital which leaves the worker holding an empty bag (/Mittal/OAS).

Covid is a further pretext to escalate the assault.

As workers, we can be our own best friends or worst enemies. The key to a successful counter attack is organisation. This begins with workers taking back control of their own unions as they fight the employer class.

Truth be told most of these leaders have sold out. They are either collaborators, weak, afraid of their own workers or the new breed in town: talk show hosts and panellists on forums. How they must love the situation Covid has created.

This situation will get worse before it gets better. We are in a heavily militarised society, on top of the already repressive legislation re: gatherings and protests which existed long before Covid-19.

Photo: A taxi driver in San Fernando waits for passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic on 23 April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

But we must not ‘crystallise despair’, as Franz Fanon warns us. Workers have no choice but to organise to fight.

Remember 50 years ago the organised working class arose and took its destiny into its own hands. Why can’t we use this Golden Anniversary to re-kindle that spirit?

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  1. What happens to those who served;is nkorea standards going to be the next normal? We first start with the 1st,2nd and 3rd citizens by amputating surgically their excess Fat. Why should the miniscule live on$500us/day and the poor live on $2us/day. Eric williams wrote”The Proloteriat and the buorgeise” he was the grandfather of pnm. The worker and the working class. Think people’s lest we are doom! I say.

  2. I would normally defend painting all public officers with the same tarnished brush having been one for 42 years. Although there are still some very hard working, competent public officers, I’m saddened at what is happening in general in the Public Service. I have never seen such careless disregard for taxpayers and such dereliction of duty. There is a level of incompetence that is mind boggling. They dont want to work and rather than the managers insist on them doing what they are paid for they take the easy route and overburden those who are willing to perform their duties. They dont even care to learn and their Supervisors seem to be afraid to demand that they do. I’ve always said there are bad piblic officers because there are bad managers in the Service and this is now more ibvious than ever. There is no level of accountability for the top ranks so how do you expect the lower ranks to perform. When you can ask for information and two years later the Permanent Secretary is saying he gave it to the Deputy Permanent Secretary who gave it to the Administrative Officer V who gave it to the Administrative Officer 11.and none can tell you the status of the matter, how do you discipline the lower ranks. The PM has to demand that the accountability starts with the Permanent Secretaries and other senior ranks. Then too, the Office of the Director of Personnel Administration is too busy finding ways of rapid promotion for themselves and their friends.and are not concerned about the many square pegs they place in round holes. The Service Commissions are not truly independent because whatever the Public Officers in the DPA’s Department recommends in their notes to the Commission is just what they approve and so on and so on. Oh, and by the way using deceased Mr. Draper and Mr. Cuffy as examples in this argument is just being disingenuous. Every public officer is entitled to sick and extended sick leave under of the Public Service Regulations and they are paid either by the Ministry or by the NIB dependent on how the leave is classified. Some go on for years until they are medically boarded. Public Officers can also get leave for a variety of reasons such as to pursue contract employment or to accompany their spouses abroad.

  3. What you idiots refuse to acknowledge is that we are going through a pandemic that’s affecting everyone. EVERYONE! That’s why things have to be the way they are…now. It’s not like the PM is deliberately selecting anybody to pick on. If you’re not aware, public servants, ALL public servants play an extremely important role in getting this country back to a semblance of normalcy if we are to ever get there. Try and understand.

    • I’ve been a servant of the public in excess of three decades. Iretired eight years ago way before covids birth and I have to beg alms;the reasons the finance man not/never instructed to pay legitimate renumeration to my colleagues and myself. Do I write off as bad debt owed by the government and blame Covid. Too much credits bestowed on Covid.

  4. The old adage ‘it takes two hands to clap’ hasn’t change and is still relevant maybe moreso now as the government of the day attempt to preserve life and livelihoods. So why not go the extra mile to serve those who are funding your salaries (not Rowley but taxpayers).

  5. Lasana Liburd

    Rae Samuel, I’ve a question.
    You say: ‘I do not know of anyone willing to go the extra mile under such conditions…’
    But isn’t the prime minister just asking public servants to just do the work they are already being paid for, as opposed to going ‘the extra mile’?

  6. Does three sets of wrong make it right for persons to shirk their duties/responsibilities. Our society is falling apart, riddled with indiscipline, lack of productivity and a general lack of a sense of responsibility or what is right from wrong. To me it is almost juvenile, the thought that if some can get away with somethings then its ok for others to so do. In almost all of the examples provided there is a likelihood that there were other mitigating circumstances that prompted some of these actions and eventual responses and one may argue the same in the case of absentee public servants. I think though that it highlights a breakdown in supervision and overall accountability which has lead to all of the negative fallouts which are in turn working against workers and their security of tenure. Very soon if we aren’t experiencing this already, this behaviour will begin to adversely affect our standard of living.

  7. You mean there is an idiot out there trying to justify the well documented, long complained about, sufferating indolence of the average public servant?

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