The devil in the detail has damned negotiations between government and public sector unions over public service conditions of services.
The negotiations which should have reached the stage of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts is bogged down in logistical details.
Following the PEMANDU report by a Malaysian company which resulted in public servants’ salaries being hiked by six percent, government and six public service unions agreed to hold the second leg of negotiations on the conditions of service and the pay structure of the Public Service.
The two parties agreed that there was need to have a joint consultation process starting the beginning of May and the position papers on talks were to be exchanged mid May.
In a letter addressed to the unions dated 20 May, Director of Public Service Management, Goitseone Mosalakatane, reminded the unions that they had proposed that the initially agreed Joint Consultative meetings be set aside forthwith.
He also reminded the unions that at the said meeting they expressed concern that their members “are worried that such consultations may temper with the Negotiation Schedule agreed at the previous on Adjustment of Salaries for the financial years 2019/20 and 2020/21.”
In the same meeting, the unions informed Mosalakatane that negotiations on conditions of service must be concluded quickly because workers conditions of service needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
They indicated that it was not necessary for the employer to tour the country consulting with Unions because the challenges around public service conditions of service are known to all workers. The unions further stated that they had already submitted these challenges to the employer in forums.
The union representatives pointed out that the Permanent Secretary to President had addressed workers where the challenges were communicated to him. The unions insisted that the planned tour would compromise the principles the negotiations.
“It was on those bases that the intended tour of the Employer with Unions was abandoned to allow for negotiations to start and be quickly concluded. To that effect, the Unions will submit their revised version proposal this week and wait for the employer to submit her proposal,” the six unions said in a statement this week.
At the same meeting with the employer, the unions proposed that all proposals needed to have been exchanged before 29th May 2019, and negotiations be concluded within two weeks.
Responding to the unions’ proposals, Mosalakatane stated: “After careful consideration of our internal process vis-a-vis your proposed date to exchange position papers, we recognise that it would not be possible for the employer party to acquire a clear mandate from Government within such a short period of time.”
He added: “However, we may only be in a position to exchange position papers on negotiations on conditions of service for the public service on the 20th June 2019.
“We further propose that the commencement date for negotiations on the conditions of service for the Public Service be the 25th June 2019 and the completion date of the negotiations shall be determined by both parties.”