Friday, October 30, 2020

Government publishes chilling amendments to the Public Service Act

Newly published proposals for the amendments to the Public Service Act of 2008 are likely to incite a new tug of war between Government and some sections of trade unions movement as a result of their draconian slant.

If implemented, the amendments are likely to have an effect of reversing the gains made by labour movements when the founding law was enacted in 2008.

Among other things the new proposals provide for a totally new set and and new definitions of misconduct, disciplinary proceedings and punishment for such misconduct.

Four types of misconduct have been added to the already existing types of misconduct. The four are: Publicly speaking or demonstrating for or against any politician or political party,  being an active member of, or holding office in any political party; publishing one’s views on political matters in writing and holding a parliamentary seat or holding a political office in any local government body except  where the office is held ex officio.

Part XI of the proposed amendments with termination of appointments of employee including at super-scale and senior management levels. 

Under this part clause 53(2) of the proposed Bill amends section 39 (2) of the Public Service Act by leaving the responsibility to enact rules of procedure to be followed in disciplinary matters to the Permanent Secretary to the President, and not to Collective Bargaining as is currently the case.

Another amendment proposes that when reduction of salary is imposed as punishment, the consent of the employee shall not be required as is currently the case.

Yet another proposed amendment deals with settlement of disputes and specifically provides for referral of disputes, grievances or appeals to the commissioner of Labour in terms of Trade disputes Act.

This proposal takes away the current power of the Bargaining Council as a body to whom grievances may be referred.

Part XIV of the proposed Public Service Bill deals with industrial action in the Public Service. 

Under this part clause 67 of the proposed Public Service Bill amends section 47 of the Public Service Act by providing that a person holding “a management post” (and not “in senior management of the public service”) shall not engage in a strike or action short of a strike. Sub- section clause (2) introduced the definition of the term “management” to mean: an employee or public officer who has authority on behalf of his employer, to employ, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, terminate the employment of, reward, discipline or deal with the grievances relating to the employment of any fellow employees or effectively to recommend any such action or the manner in which such grievances ought to be dealt with, if the exercise by him or her of that authority is not merely of a routine or clerical nature but require the use of his her discretion.  

Part XV of the proposed Public Service Bill provides for the collective bargaining in the Public Service; clause covering the appointment of the secretary and location of the secretariat has been created: the secretary of the council shall be appointed by the Permanent Secretary to the President from amongst employees of the Directorate of Public Service Management;

The Directorate of Public Service Management shall act as the secretariat for the council.

Clause 74 of the proposed Public Service Bill incorporates a provison restricting representatives of trade unions admitted to the Bargaining Council to Public officers.

Part XVI of the proposed Public Service Bill 2016 deals with offences and Penalties; clause 81 under this part amends section 62 of the Public Service Act by increasing the penalty for supplying the President, Permanent Secretary to the President, Director General, appointing Authority or Supervisor with false and misleading information from P500 per six months, or both to P30, 000 per six months maximum, or to both.

Clause 83 amends section 63 by increasing the penalty for disclosure of information without written authority, by employee or other person from 500 per six months or both to P30, 000 per six months or both. Further it replaces “Minister” with “Permanent Secretary to the President” as the person who may grant such authority.

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