Multi-year wage agreement will improve service delivery

Date: 7 Aug 2012

The signing of a multi-term wage agreement with public sector unions provides for a new era in the public service as it affords us an opportunity to do things efficiently and faster, writes Bongani Mlangeni

Consistent with our view that salary increases should be linked to performance in order to improve the state machinery and quality of service that we provide to citizens we cannot continue with blanket salary increases.

The new public service that we aspire to build is that of its employees going beyond the call of duty, whom its employment to the public service does not only start at eight and ends at four but goes beyond the boundaries of their offices.

For many years government's salary agreements with labour have been single term agreements with no emphasis on improvement of work done which meant government has consistently increased salaries but there have not been an increase in output from labour.

This does not only create instability within the public service but end up in a crisis that will affect service delivery in government, which will then result in denying the poor of their constitutional enshrined rights of access to adequate services from the state.

The global economy all over the world indicates that ahead of us lies greater challenges and more organisations are required to do so much with very little as the purse tightens.

In his budget vote speech earlier this year Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan noted that the South African economy has averaged about three percent growth a year since 2009. He also added that slowdown in the global economy will result in real GDP growth falling to about 2.7 percent this year.

The public service is not immune to these challenges as its source of income is dependent on a booming economy.

More so our problems are compounded by the fact that unlike big corporates with huge financial reserves whom can afford when the going gets tough to retrench thousands of their workforces to save costs we have no such option.

We in the public service have no such luxury in fact in spite of these global economic challenges we are still expected to create employment within our ranks in the process increasing the salary bill.

It is for this reason that we are calling for an Accord with labour which will culminate in a service delivery charter firmly based on the needs of our people, ensuring that people are indeed our joint priority.

The service charter will ensure that we commit ourselves to a multi-year agreement and afford all parties space for planning and implementing these agreements.

What these figures indicates is that for government to achieve its set targets it will have to do with little but work smarter in essence it will have to redouble its effort while its budget remains the same.

This will require public servants to give much more of their time outside compensated hours in order for us to meet our targets.

Therefore any wage agreements should not only be linked to performance but also it should add value for money. Citizens as a whole should see their tax at work when visiting any of our government institutions; they should see their government pulling out all stops to ensure a better life for all.

The service charter we are calling for and to be agreed upon by both the state as an employer with labour will therefore get rid of the uneasiness created by the single term agreements.

The charter will provide for the establishment of principles governing increases in remuneration conditions where salary increases are based on productivity and performance improvements.

In addition to this the signatories to the charter will commit themselves to serve the public in an unbiased and impartial manner in order to create confidence in the public service and provide timely service to the development and upliftment of all South Africans amongst other things.

We will as a matter of urgency embark on a number of consultative meetings with various stakeholders including labour, political parties across the spectrum and non-governmentto come up with what in addition to our proposal should be added in the service charter.

Because the public service that we must all work towards creating is one that puts the interests of its citizens above everything else, it is incumbent to all employees to give true meaning of what a public servant is.

A public servant is one who gives all of his being to the service of the people the one who make it his responsibility to answer a question about how to apply for a social grant in a taxi even when not asked just to help. So the public servant is one who a community rely on him or her for information and help with regards to government services.

Once both the state and labour show commitment to the charter through their deeds it will inspire confidence in the public service and be trusted by ordinary people who continue to receive bad service from some government institutions.

In ensuring that we provide proper services to our people we will also accelerate with speed the creation of a single public service.

The aim of a single public service is not aimed at taking away responsibilities of the other levels of government but to ensure that there is a single set of norms and standards that are applied throughout the whole public service.

Through a single public service we will also be able to promote service delivery through systematic information and knowledge management and collaboration between institutions within and across spheres of government.

For their part South African's must refuse bad service in government institutions where ever they come across it.

Often we read of stories in the media of people complaining about the bad treatment they are receiving in government institutions with many having lost hope of ever receiving any help. This salary agreement empowers them to hold us accountable to the promises we have made and demand good service.

The writer works for the Ministry of Public Service and Administration

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