Civil servants hit out at cutbacks

The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association is calling on the government to release information showing exactly how much revenue will be realised from the proposed contributions by civil servants towards healthcare and pensions.

In an open letter to the governor and deputy governor, the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association president James Watler queried the legality of changing the terms of civil servants’ contracts unilaterally.

“We assume, from previous rounds of budget discussions, that the government is again taking advice on the legality of unilaterally voiding the mutually agreed contracts of thousands of employees. We expect that these reviews will, again, show that such unilateral actions are wrong and expose the government to serious liability,” Mr. Watler said in a letter addressed to Governor Duncan Taylor and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, dated Sunday, 29 July, which was released to the press on Monday afternoon.

Mr. Watler said the human impacts of the government’s proposals outweighed the potential legal implications. “We must ask whether any assessment has been done of the very real economic impact these changes will have on civil servants and their families? The Management Council [of the Civil Service Association] cannot ignore the realities facing its members who are already struggling against the ever increasing cost of living and for whom these proposals have already created significant uncertainty and anxiety,” he said.

Premier McKeeva Bush announced last week that the government plans to introduce a payroll tax on expatriates and that civil servants would begin paying contributions towards healthcare and pensions as part of the 2012/2013 budget cutbacks.

“It is unfortunate that prior to this point, there was no opportunity for discussion of these proposals,” said Mr. Watler. “This has been compounded by the lack of clarity and specificity in various media reports, which have in some instances been confusing.”

The Civil Servants Association is requesting the release of “all alternative cost ‘saving’ and revenue ‘generation’ methods which relate to the benefits and terms of employment of the Civil Service, not just the few pension and health care taxes so far identified in public”.

Mr. Watler said that members of the civil service association wanted to know what amount of the past service pension liability the government would fund this year.

He said members were heartened to learn that government employees on open term contracts who advance positions, move within the civil service or whose contract of service otherwise changes, would not have to pay a pension contribution. However, Mr. Watler pointed out that if the pension contribution requirement applied to staff on fixed-term contracts, “this may lead to some supervising staff being paid less than open contract subordinates and could create two pay scales within the Service, one for those paying the pensions surcharge and one for other staff, which we know has been a point of objection in the past”.

He described as “disappointing” the announcement regarding civil servants paying towards healthcare costs, despite this being the subject of long-standing discussions between the Civil Service Association and the government.

“As we have stated many times in the past, the Service is open to discussion on health insurance, but only if it includes some form of choice of health care provider. Whether those discussions should also include choice of health insurer or not is also open as it must be recognised that alternative insurance providers may be able to provide better cost-effective access to health care without reducing existing benefits,” Mr. Watler said in the letter.

He also questioned if civil servants would be allowed to remove themselves from the Civil Service CINICO rolls and get insurance from a private provider.

For more on this story, read Wednesday’s Caymanian Compass.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. This reality check on civil servants might cause them to ‘wake up’ too.

    The country needs to be able to sustain expenditure, which may naturally increase over time but simply creating jobs for friends families, refusing to let persons over 60 with status/contract retire has creating an over sized civil service with questionable corresponding level of benefits efficiency.

    As said in the past, being Caymanian is not qualification, so all those new Caymanians should be considered first after contract workers and other criteria to keep jobs, but we need to reduce operational cost and managers for so many functions just to reward persons who want to be managers and get that salary scale.

    The CSA should have supported a cut in the civil service years ago!

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  2. James Watler,
    You should know better. Civil servants all over the world must contribute to their health insurance coverage.
    Who do you think you are to expect the citizens of this country to pay health care coverage for civil servants who do not deserve to be treated better than those in the private sector who pay their own insurance 100%?
    This is so unreasonable. Government must make decisions and the civil service can not dictate whether the country stays afloat or not.
    I’m much afraid you won’t get a better deal in the private sector where private insurance sharks are concerned.

    The Premier can not be hinged to civil service decisions but must make hard decisions which the civil service must concede. You got off really well as the premier is trying very hard not to lay off civil servants at the mercy of the privae sector that DOES NOT HIRE CAYMANIANS, so be very careful who you are defending you may find your expat subordinate being hired before you as you are a Caymanian. Don’t stick your neck out too far for fear of losing it.
    Caymanians are still waiting for people to protest on their behalf for jobs to be created and go back to work.

    The premier did well in his decision in order to save the country from disaster.

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  3. Okay, so the question of legality arises when it affects all of the civil service…so, why wasn’t the legality of removing flights home every two years for expats looked into – this was written into a contract, and then reneged on mid-contract for a lot of my friends.

    Contracts here…LOL.

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  4. It go to reason that personal contract agreements naturally follow changes in rule of law.. Changes in law adds or voids responsibilities to the target elements that cannot be ignored, especially if the changes could not have been been easily anticipated at time of contract agreement.

    Civil Servants need to draw in their milk tooth, uncouple from the utter, take a good look around and see how green pastures are turned into cow patties if you overgraze the field.

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  5. Truth is the government employs far more people than necessary to get the job done. Government expenses in general are a drain on any economy. A robust private sector will lift all boats. Never tax the production side of the economy. If a government needs revenue, it such look toward taxing only the consumption side. One should never be penalized for their hard work as in an income tax.

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