The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association held a general meeting on Thursday, 30 May, at the Mary Miller Memorial Hall.
Mr. James Watler, president of CICSA along with members of the Management Council convened the meeting to inform members about issues that are topical with the civil services and to invite suggestions from the members on the way forward.
Topics addressed at the meeting included:
Overview of challenges of the economy
Health and pension benefits
Membership and grievances
Image of the Civil Service
The imminent opening of an office located at Hospital Road Plaza
Recruitment of an office administrator
The president pointed out that the state of the economy is still not rebounding as some had hoped and that we are still faced with challenges that are not only local but global.
Employment is still reduced and within our respective entities we continue to experience decline in staff numbers as when persons leave it has now become customary for the job that the person did to be divided up and passed on to those remaining. This requires us to have to fill in the void and, while recognising that natural limits to this process exist, members were encouraged to continue to do one’s best under these difficult circumstances.
Members were brought up to speed on the rapport that exists between CICSA and the Portfolio of the Civil Service as well as with the deputy governor. The Management Council has been invited to participate in discussing issues that affects the Civil Service and therefore has been able to give input on many of the issues that are at the forefront. This is a very excellent opportunity that is valued by all parties concerned, thus it is hoped that this line of communication will continue to grow and develop as it is our responsibility as employees to ensure equity and fairness as we endeavour to deliver a quality service second to none to our employers, the Cayman Islands Government and the people of these Islands. In turn we expect the same from our employers and over the years having forged this kind of relationship we are looking forward to continuing to improve on such a relationship and thus make it stronger.
The president said that he understood that government had committed to the UK in the FFR to reduce the CS by 10 per cent or about 360 persons over three years and it was anticipated that 175 of the budgeted headcount would be achieved by the end of June. Members enquired about the Voluntary Separation Policy spoken about by the deputy governor at Fidelity’s CBO 10th Anniversary Conference held in January and also in several chief officers’ meeting minutes. While the Management Council was aware of this initiative, which it was their understanding would incentivise early separation from the service, no timeline was known to CICSA for when or if the policy would become public, much less open for consideration by civil servants. Whenever such an offer is placed on the table, the president urged members to carefully examine the implications of any voluntary separation. It was pointed out that it appears that the voluntary separation would only affect Caymanian civil servants as persons on contracts could simply not be renewed without the need to incentivise voluntary separation.
It was noted that contrary to opinions expressed in the media, the CS does pay its pension and this was recently acknowledged by the deputy governor. The CS is concerned that some divestment of the Public Service Pension Fund had occurred over the past six months; however, there were promises that government would meet all of its pension contribution obligations to the fund by the end of the current fiscal year that ends 30 June. Concerns were also raised about how government is dealing with the public service past service liability pension issue.
A discussion was held about the potential changes in the CS health coverage as a part of the overall remuneration package. CICSA had concerns about the costs related to CINICO and the fact that many groups of persons including medical indigents, under-insured’s, seafarers and veterans are afforded unbudgeted coverage through CINICO. The CS could not and should not be expected to subsidise the cost of other groups that are covered under CINICO. It was also agreed that discussions about potential changes in the CS health coverage should be tied into the cost of living wage adjustments and the previous pay cuts, which civil servants experienced over the past five years. Since 2002 Civil Service salaries have only been adjusted downwards, failing to recognise the increasing cost of living as well as increasing workloads and responsibilities of remaining staff, resulting in a remuneration schedule that is becoming uncompetitive compared to the quality of staff the service wishes to retain and attract. Civil servants may be open to “contributions” to health coverage but they must have a choice of medical providers (cannot be restricted to government healthcare facilities).
It appears that government is forcing civil servants who attain the age of 60 out of the service. This is unlike the private sector where persons are allowed to continue beyond 60 and continue to pay pensions until they retire. However, in some reported cases persons are recruited from overseas who are approaching or exceed the age of 60 years. This is not reasonable when you have Caymanians who are looking for employment. It was strongly suggested by members that the age of retirement be reviewed with the view to extend it beyond 60 to 65 or some other more appropriate age. Countries around the world have altered the retirement age so why not Cayman!
Responding to member requests from previous general meetings, CICSA acquired an office space at the Hospital Road Plaza. The office will be staffed with an office administrator and it will be used to conduct CICSA’s business in a secure and discreet manner. An official opening of the office is expected some time in August. The benefits that CICSA offer to members was discussed and it was agreed that the association would be embarking on a new membership drive to support all of the initiatives that are envisioned, including the establishment of a co-op for food supplies and other items.
The restoration of the Cayman Islands Government fiscal sustainability is of paramount importance to the CS and CICSA. The CS has made many sacrifices and contributions over the past four years. It was noted that a recent study indicated that approximately 60 per cent of civil servants earn less than $4,000 per month. CICSA’s Management Council is pleased with the opportunity to be involved in discussions regarding the issues that are facing the government and the country at large. CICSA is able and willing to bring sensible, pragmatic ideas to the CIG to assist with the challenging issues and will continue to do so based on the input and opinions of membership as expressed through meetings such as this.
Cayman Islands Civil Service Association