Government is facing increasing dissatisfaction over pay, with salary inequality blamed for driving talented employees out of the public sector.
The Civil Service Association this week added its voice to that of Police Commissioner David Baines and education officials, who have raised concerns that austerity policies have undermined the concept of equal pay for equal work in the civil service.
James Watler, president of the association, said it is time for government to end the “restrictive policies” which he said have created an “inequality of pay between Caymanian and expatriate staff.”
He said, “If the public want a service to be provided, the persons providing that service must be paid properly and equitably. Anything less is unfair.”
His comments echo those of Commissioner Baines, who said the public sector pay freeze is having a disproportionate impact on Caymanian officers.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson acknowledged that “pay stagnation” is a source of frustration in the civil service, but suggested austerity measures are beginning to be relaxed thanks to government’s improving financial position.
He said the issue of pay inequity is “not one of Caymanian versus non-Caymanian, but more generally an issue of existing employees versus new hires.”
Mr. Manderson said he plans to relax the current ban on incremental pay increases to allow staff to be financially rewarded for exceptional performance or for obtaining additional qualifications.
The issue of pay inequality appears to be the unintended consequence of a series of austerity measures introduced to help keep government spending in check following the global financial crisis.
Mr. Manderson said a freeze on incremental pay increases had meant that a disparity arose between existing staff and new recruits, who were able to negotiate salaries in line with their previous earnings.
He acknowledged that in areas such as education and policing, where a relatively high number of employees come from overseas, “the problem may seem to manifest as a Caymanian versus non-Caymanian issue as non-Caymanian staff are regularly recruited to fill vacancies.”
He said staff are now receiving regular appraisals, and performance-related pay increases are being introduced to correct “genuine pay anomalies.”
“I have advised our staff that it is our intention to relax the ban on within-grade increments to reward staff who have obtained additional qualifications [or] are performing their jobs more proficiently as a result of years of experience,” he added.
Mr. Watler said he was pleased that the issue of pay inequity was beginning to be addressed. He said a planned cost-of-living pay increase in July for all civil servants should be the first step in rolling back “no longer needed” austerity policies.
“The policies of the last decade-and-a-half of denying staff opportunities for incremental advancement within their jobs has contributed to dissatisfaction among staff and across the Civil Service, which has contributed to the loss of good employees to the private sector, and makes attracting new staff difficult.
“These restrictive policies are particularly hard on permanent, generally Caymanian staff as contracted officers are able to negotiate their salaries when hired or rehired, while permanent staff are kept on the ‘new hire’ pay point for years, sometimes until they leave the service out of frustration.”
Police Commissioner Baines last month highlighted issues of pay inequity in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, saying the situation was “gravely unfair.”
“We have people who have joined this service, sometimes 10 years or more ago, and they were put on a set point on their appointment,” he said. “Since then, various moratoriums have been put in place, so you actually get a discrimination against some of our local officers, who are left on the point they were appointed on.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin was among a number of members of the Legislative Assembly to raise similar concerns about pay disparity in schools during a Finance Committee hearing in 2014.
“I am aware of close to eight or nine Caymanian teachers who are considering leaving the public service because of the salary issue, of their feeling of not being treated fairly compared to teachers recruited from overseas,” he said.
A freeze on incremental pay increases, a 3.2 percent civil service wide pay-cut and a moratorium on recruitment were among a series of cost-cutting measures introduced between 2008 and 2012 to help rein in government spending.
Mr. Manderson said those measures were intended to be temporary to help government comply with U.K.-mandated spending constraints, designed to help reverse an operational deficit.
He said the civil service has made “tremendous contributions” to improving government’s financial position.
He suggested the era of austerity is almost over, with a 4 percent pay increase, effective from July 1, among a number of measures planned to improve pay in the civil service.
He said 267 staff received promotions or pay increases following job evaluations in 2014, and performance-related raises are being introduced,
“How soon we are able to progress with these additional pay considerations will be closely tied to monitoring our financial performance,” Mr. Manderson said. “I am cautiously optimistic about our ability to provide financial rewards to existing, high-performing staff within the civil service in the near future. Our recent track record shows we are doing the right things to make this possible.”