Over the years, employees working for government owned companies and statutory authorities (“public servants”) and those working for ministries and portfolios (“civil servants”) have reportedly been subject to different treatment, in particular, salary grades and cost of living adjustments. In order to achieve fairness across public servants and civil servants, some public authorities are now taking steps to rectify the differences.
The starting point for understanding the rationale for alignment of salaries is the Public Authorities Act. This requires all government owned companies and statutory authorities to use the same salary scale as determined by the Cabinet and all jobs shall be evaluated by the same job evaluation methodology. Where there is a difference between the terms and conditions of employment at a statutory authority and civil servants working in the ministries, the salary grades for remuneration in the statutory authority must be adjusted accordingly to reduce such differences. Otherwise, the relevant entity will be in breach of the Public Authorities Act.
In order to address this issue, bosses at some government owned companies and statutory authorities have made the relevant adjustments or are in the process of reviewing the variances to bring them in line with the Public Authorities Act. For example, this exercise is currently being completed by the National Roads Authority (NRA).
In his explanation of what is currently being done to stay in compliance with the Public Authorities Act, the NRA board chairman, Alric Lindsay said:
Over the past couple of months, NRA’s managing director, Mr Edward Howard, has liaised with relevant parties, including a consultant, to review and compare job descriptions of NRA employees and civil servants. The idea is that, after reviewing various factors, the salary grades of NRA employees will be aligned with the remuneration of civil servants.
Regarding this, it is anticipated that relevant government owned companies, statutory authorities and those civil servants working in ministries will have their salary grades aligned in due course.
Cost of living adjustments
Where salary grades have been at the same level for a long time, however, salary grade alignments alone may not necessarily account for inflation. It is understood that, for this reason, cost of living adjustments may be considered from time to time.
Under the Public Authorities Act, any such cost of living adjustments for employees of a public authority shall be calculated by the Economics and Statistics Office and must be approved by the Cabinet. Given the high cost of living faced by employees this year, it would not be unreasonable to consider cost of living adjustments for lower salaried employees at statutory authorities and government owned companies in 2022 (a similar exercise was done in the fourth quarter of 2021, for example).
Ultimately, a decision should also be made about having separate definitions of civil servants (employed by an entity other than a statutory authority or government company) and public servants (employed by a statutory authority or government company). These definitions can be confusing because those working for government companies are dependent upon government resources and funding and are ultimately subject to directives from the Cabinet. They may therefore view themselves as not being so different from those working in ministries.
Alternatively, of course, the government could make a decision to remove statutory authorities and government owned companies from under the government’s control and allow those bodies to generate and control their own revenue and expenditure, including remuneration.