Friday, 27 April 2001

Pick the ace

The Malta Independent

Picking the ace!

I am sure you must have seen the roadside gambler shuffling three playing cards inviting passers-by to gamble money by picking the odd ace in the three cards. The professional gambler`s sleight of hand turns what looks like an easy win into a sure loss for the amateur gambler.

In deciding how to handle the holiday issue related to the beatification of three Maltese during the forthcoming Papal visit on 9th May, the government had to make a choice out of three, but it had no sleight of hand to contend with. It was quite a simple choice.` It could have done nothing allowing those who wanted to attend celebrations to use their` leave entitlement. It could have declared the day as a public holiday for all and compensate it by reducing a day from the optional leave as had happened when 7th June was declared public holiday.` Or it could have declared the day a one-off public holiday for all in addition to other holiday entitlement.

Yet government chose the unthinkable. It chose to give the day as an additional holiday only to public sector employees and left it for private employers to use their judgement as to whether they should do the same.

This is incomprehensible. At a time when government is supposed to be promoting labour mobility to encourage excess resources in the public sector to make the move to more productive jobs in the private sector government sends a signal in the opposite direction.

Government employees have now one more reason to stay put. Summer half days, security of tenure and loose accountability of performance are already strong reasons why people should prefer to remain a burden on the national exchequer rather than seek employment where they are really needed in the productive sector.

There,` summer half days is a rare experience. Security of tenure is limited to a maximum of eight weeks salary in case of redundancy. And if private sector employers hit the rocks financially,` their employees will have to play grande fratello in a sit-in strike as the Supermaster employees had to do over Good Friday.` In` the private sector one is` rigidly accountable for` performance.` If not one`s employer would not be around for long.

But now public sector employees can chalk up another advantage. They get an additional holiday which is denied to their colleagues in the private sector.

If the economy were in robust shape one could understand government being` liberal in granting additional holidays. But given our present sombre economic scenario would it not have been more sensible to give the day as a public holiday to all and knock it` off the leave entitlement` It would have been fair on private sector employees and would have avoided` widening the divide between public sector largesse and private sector repression.

Government can`t expect to win if rather than choosing one of the three cards, even blindly, it draws` a fourth card which was not in play.

No comments:

Post a Comment