Cayman Islands civil servants got a vote of mid-term “thanks” from the elected government and their boss, the deputy governor on Wednesday, sounding quite a different tone to other messages public sector workers received earlier this year.
“We want to thank you for the success the government has enjoyed over the last two years,” a letter sent to all civil servants, signed by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, read. “We are grateful to each and every one of you.”
The message was issued on the same day a 4 percent across-the-board pay increase, the first government workers have seen since 2008, took effect. Civil servants should see the pay raise in their checks toward the end of the month.
The two-page letter also warned that “changes” are ahead in the next two years of the Progressives-led government’s term.
“We have created and implemented Project Future, which will streamline government, control costs and achieve more efficient and effective public services,” the letter read. “Many of the projects within that program are now under way and more will follow in the coming months.
“All these things will impact you and will require the organization and its staff to change. We are committed to engaging you positively in the changes that will affect you. We also recognize that we too [referring to government leadership] need to change.”
Although only a few outward signs of reform have so far proceeded, six areas where the Cayman Islands government expects to reform its operations, following a consultant review completed last September – known as Project Future or the Ernst & Young consultancy report – were outlined by Premier McLaughlin in April.
The options being pursued included the merger of various government watchdog agencies, the merger of government communications services and the merger of certain public utility regulatory agencies. The government would also consider the sale of certain “surplus” Crown land, raise the retirement age from 60 to 65, and consolidate primary schools in Cayman Brac.
Mr. McLaughlin said these specific areas did not constitute the sum of reforms that would be proposed out of the Ernst & Young report, and that other plans would certainly be made in time.
“There is always great clamor for immediate change … and often these changes do not happen as quickly as we’d like, but we have to make sure we do these things properly,” he said, adding that the EY report was simply “one tool in the box” of government as it sought to reform the public service.
In February, Deputy Governor Manderson took civil servants to task warning in an administrative circular that bad customer service in government departments may lead to “separation” – firing – from the public sector.
“Civil servants who consistently provide poor customer service will be required to separate from the civil service,” Mr. Manderson’s administrative circular read. “Such persons, by association, harm the reputation of the majority of staff who do exceptional work and they harm the public’s confidence in the civil service overall.”
Mr. Manderson said it was “evident” that the civil service was “not doing enough” in the area of customer service, and he used, as an example, a poll in the Cayman Compass newspaper as evidence of customer dissatisfaction. In the online Compass poll, published on Jan. 30, nearly two-thirds of the respondents gave a grade of “poor” or “terrible” to the Cayman Islands civil service when it comes to customer service. Of the 417 respondents to the one-week poll, the largest segment – 143 people or 34.3 percent – thought the civil service had terrible customer service.
Mr. Manderson said he was “disappointed” that the majority of those who responded to the online poll rated government customer service so low.
“If we fail in this area, we harm our reputation with the public and our elected leaders,” he said.
In an effort to improve customer relations, Mr. Manderson said the government and the management of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman have again agreed to collaborate on an employee training program aimed at providing the “gold standard” level of customer service. A similar program with the Ritz-Carlton was undertaken in 2012 under Mr. Manderson’s leadership.