In negotiating pay increases in the public service, the government has to get out of the habit of paying for time served rather than merit-based pay increases, former President of the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) Gowon Bowe told Guardian Business yesterday.
Bowe said the government has to begin looking at the market rate for positions in the public service and adjust the pay scales accordingly.
“If I’m paying $20,000 for a clerical staff member and that’s the market rate, if they have been there 30 years should they now be making $40,000 or $50,000? We have to get out of this paying for time served and really pay the market rate for a position, and that really requires there to be more performance-based payment,” he said.
“That is to say that the base rate is at an acceptable level and then if you perform highly, you might get a substantial, one-time payment because of the performance for that period and if you don’t, then you won’t be making more.
“A wise man once told me there is a big difference between 25 years of experience and one year of experience repeated 25 times.”
Bowe said being in a position for a number of years does not mean that a worker has gained 25 years of knowledge and experience if they simply repeated the same thing that they did when they joined the company over and over again.
“There has to be some kind of advancement in order to qualify for a pay increase,” he said.
“Unless you are the permanent secretary or the most senior civil servant, there will always be room to better yourself and advance.
“There has to be a realistic expectation that when you are in a certain employ, that you will be paid for what it is you do, not how long you have been around. And I think sometimes the discussion and negotiations always center around time, as opposed to skill and valued output.”
Bowe said high performers in a business will always have a job, therefore our system should be set up to avoid the “protection of mediocrity”.
On August 22, members of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) marched on Bay Street to the Cabinet Office, demanding money they say is owed to them by the government.
During the strike, BPSU President Kimsley Ferguson said the union’s industrial agreement expired in 2017. Since then, he said, the BPSU has proposed a $250 base salary increase, a lump sum payment of $2,500 and another $200 pay raise for its workers.
However, union members have complained of stalled negotiations with the government.