The National, Thursday, April 28, 2011
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
PUBLIC servants can expect their much-anticipated pay increase of 7.5% in their pay packets next pay day with housing benefits still a contentious issue.
The pay increase will be backdated to January this year.
The K500 accommodation subsidy buy-out will be implemented by the Department of Personnel Management (DPM), but will not be included in the salary fixation agreement for this year to 2013 to be signed this morning between PEA president Michael Malabag and DPM secretary John Kali.
Malabag, in a letter dated last April 19, responding to Kali’s letter of April 15, stated that PEA had opposed the government’s “buy-out” of allowance plan which it viewed as inferior and was not in line with the union’s claim of K250 on top of the current K7 subsidy rate. Malabag said: “I will take into consideration your letters stating that the government will proceed with its intention to apply K500 across the board to all salary scales and that the general order accommodation subsidy will cease forthwith, although it will not be included in this agreement.
“PEA will pursue this matter with the public service conciliation and arbitration commission with the intention of reaching an amicable resolution,” Malabag said.
He also welcomed the consumer price index (CPI) clause in the agreement, to be added as a protection against inflation projections, which was an added bonus on the salary adjustments.
“PEA is also satisfied with your offer of ‘recreation leave fares’ to be made available in full for public servants and their dependents.”
Malabag said both DPM and PEA must reach a separate agreement on other matters such as retrenchment and retirement, reduction of 35% tax on final payment of entitlements and compulsory life and health insurance cover and risk allowance.
“We commend you for creating and improving better terms and conditions of employment in the public service.”
The official signing ceremony for the 7.5% pay rise for public servants, slated for April 14, was deferred due to differences over housing conditions.
The government had approved a 6% increase with an additional 1.5% for productive performance. On top of that, the government had decided to make a K500 one-off payment in housing allowance.
However, the PEA had demanded a K250 fortnightly payment.
In his letter on April 15, Kali stated that because housing was not a condition of employment for public servants and an allowance was, therefore, not negotiable, the government would proceed with paying K500 across all salary scales and effective from the date of implementation, it would also cease the general order accommodation subsidy.
“This decision is of significant benefit to the lowest paid employee and should not be denied to them,” Kali stated.
The K7 allowance per fortnight for public servants had been in the general orders for decades.