EDITORIAL – A ‘Trumpian move’ that Cayman should emulate

With a series of executive orders, U.S. President Donald Trump has cut the ropes that tied the hands of managers hoping to hold their government departments and agencies to appropriately high standards.

Cayman Islands legislators should do the same.

The first order signed last week by Mr. Trump will make it easier to fire and discipline federal employees and will make performance – not seniority – a primary consideration in layoff decisions. That straightens out a discipline and termination process that, until now, has commonly taken six months to a year, followed by an average eight-month appeals process, according to a report from the New York Times.

The second order directs federal agencies to renegotiate wasteful union contracts.

The third limits the time federal employees can spend “on the clock” (and drawing a federal salary) performing union duties to no more than 25 percent of their workweek. Previously, there had been no limit – with some employees spending as much as 100 percent of their time handling union business.

While we would have preferred an order preventing federal employees from devoting any work time to such extracurricular activities, administration officials estimate that even this modest improvement will save the federal government at least $100 million per year.

With these three commonsense executive orders, Mr. Trump continues to fulfill his promise of significantly reforming an entrenched, entitled and underperforming civil service – an army of more than two million people living off taxpayer dollars.

In the Cayman Islands, a small territory with fewer than 65,000 people, approximately 6,000 employees (including civil servants as well as staff at government-owned businesses and more than 25 “authorities”) draw their paychecks from the public purse.

From our vantage point, rarely a week goes by without yet another noteworthy and “newsworthy” incident of dysfunction, incompetence, insouciance or outright illegality in the public sector.

In the absence of a formal union, successive iterations of Cayman’s Legislative Assembly, in efforts to appease the well-organized (and politically influential) Civil Service Association, have stacked the deck in favor of civil servants – to the detriment of nearly everyone else.

The benefits, perks, allowances and “protections” offered to Cayman’s government workers read like some fantasy “wish list” that would be granted by a genie, not bestowed, carte blanche, on real-life employees in a functioning business. Consider, for example, golden benefits packages, garden leave with full pay, a dismissal process so cumbersome and lengthy that it can be less costly (and less onerous) simply to reassign poor performers or pay them handsomely to leave.

As everyone knows (regardless of whether they work in government service or in private enterprise), in an environment where poor performance is tolerated and lack of accountability is commonplace, the organization itself becomes diseased and deteriorates.

In his writings, business consultant Peter Drucker wisely observed that without intervention, the natural progression of any organization is to decline. Therefore, it is the responsibility – perhaps the main responsibility – of management to ensure that the opposite takes place. Put another way, weeds, left unattended, will eventually overrun the most beautiful of gardens.

In the United States, President Trump knows that the only way to raise standards of performance is to raise expectations – and hold low-performing employees accountable when they fail.

In Cayman, we have our own new “chief executive,” His Excellency, Governor Anwar Choudhury. Constitutionally, Governor Choudhury is the ultimate authority regarding Cayman’s civil service (although traditionally, as the Constitution also allows, governors have delegated this task to their deputies).

We would encourage our new governor to develop a comprehensive understanding of the broad swath of Cayman’s workforce (and economy) that ultimately is his to oversee.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately, the Queen’s representative, although he/she theoretically has “ultimate authority”, has in accordnace with the Queen’s mandate, always allowed Caymanians to manage their own affairs and has very rarely used executive authority. Interfering in the way the Civil Service is run although it may sound an excellent idea, is a retrograde step for internal self government, and such action should therefore be the responsibility of the Premier, even if he feels it might lose him votes from a significant portion of the electorate. Perhaps the only consolation is that after decades of non intervention the Civil Service can decline no further.

  2. Thank you Compass for your impartial (yeah, right!) union bashing which places you in the ultra right.

    Without unions, workers suffer abuse in their working conditions and workplace. In a non union world, workers provide all of the productivity and owners reap all of the financial rewards. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That is the basics of unionism, trying to get a fair deal for the worker.

    Just look at where unions have their roots – Victorian Britain where most children were denied education and were just fodder to service the mills, factories and services. It is also very unlikely that sections of our communities would have been able to have rights comparable with others if it had not been for unions … take the example of women, who, in a financial sense are seen as second class citizens who should ‘stay at home and raise the kids’.

    And when something in the employer / employee relationship breaks down, who stands for the powerless worker when the employer has their banks of HR professionals and legal support?

    It is a cheap shot to suggest that unions, in their many guises, are responsible for the ills of any society but to suggest this is the case in Cayman is laughable. The problems in Cayman are twofold – nepotism (there are only so many Caymanians) and total incompetence. You might want to protect the former but you cannot excuse the latter and blame it on unions or trade associations.

    BTW: Is Media Group Ltd, Publications, unionised?

  3. The Compass is 100% right. Of course, absolutely nothing is likely to change.

    Just look at the U.S.: Everyone — even Democrats, although they’ll never admit it — know that Trump’s attempts to “drain the swamp” are long overdue. But the U.S. is so far into the trajectory of removing common sense (and the common man) from having any influence over government that nothing is likely to stop what amounts to a runaway train overflowing with deep-state bureaucrats. (However, it must be noted that the runaway train has caused unbelievable runaway national debt — and THAT will eventually stop the train.)

    Cayman is far smaller and, one would think, in a much better position to fight it’s own strain of deep-state disease. Except for the tribalism. “How dare you fire ‘X’! His incompetence (corruption?) makes no difference. He’s our blood relation. Our family has been here 100 years!” Soon the message becomes clear: If you misbehave, the worst that happens is being suspended at full pay for the remaining years until you would have reached retirement. In other words, you just “retire” early. The upshot here as in the U.S.: Taxpayers be damned.

  4. What President Trump has done in the USA , you will never see the Politicians do in CI . They are not going to cut the rope that they are attached to. That takes someone who has confidence , and honesty and integrity to do . But the Unions are just the same as politicians, don’t care about the ones that supports them , or votes for them .