REMUNERATION AUTHORITY PRESS RELEASE NO.02/16 31st March 2016
PSA misleads public with falsehoods with regards to the Remuneration Reports of June 2014, and September 2015. The Remuneration Authority would like to correct gross falsehoods released by the Public Service Association today. It is important that the public is given the correct information, and that public statements are fact-checked, otherwise they become undisputed truth in Tonga. The falsehoods in the press release are as follows;
1. The PSA statement that remuneration and benefits recommended for the public service are “unfair” is FALSE. The recommendations are required by law to be fair to the position holder. The law also requires recommendations to be equally fair to the tax payers of Tonga who pay salaries, fair to tax payers of other countries who help the Government pay its salaries, fair to Tongan workers in the private sector, and fair to the employer (the Ministries). The evaluation method (Hay Method) used by the Authority to evaluate the job size of public service positions is the most extensively used evaluation method in the world. It is used for public servants in New Zealand, the UK, Samoa, PNG and Australia. It is not the same evaluation method used in 2005 to review Government positions.
2. The PSA statement that there was a lack of consultation with public servants is FALSE: Beginning 2014, 2015 and now 2016 the Remuneration Authority undertook extensive consultation with every Ministry, giving every Government employee the opportunity to attend meetings with the Authority. At these meetings, the work of the Authority was explained, why it was being done, the tools used, the likely outcomes, and the reasons for moving from the 1982 (present system) to the recommended new remuneration structure. Consultations were also held in Vava‟u, Ha‟apai, and „Eua. One on one consultations by the Remuneration Authority on the specific recommendations for every single position holder cannot proceed unless Cabinet approves the Report.
The Remuneration Authority admits that there was not enough general consultation with the general public as tax payers. There is no clear indication or polling data as to whether the general public are happy with the level of public services provided, whether the general public would agree with having good performance to drive salary increase (recommended by the Authority), whether the general public would agree to stopping automatic annual salary increases (recommended by the Authority), and whether the general public would agree to a new structure that provides tools to effectively manage the increasing costs of funding Government salaries. Other countries who help the Government pay its salaries have also not been consulted.
The Remuneration met with the PSA as part of the work. In the final stages of the Report‟s completion in 2015, the Remuneration again invited the PSA for consultation. The PSA Secretary was travelling overseas at the time, and declined to send a representative to the meeting. The Authority met with other professional associations.
3. The PSA “sneak preview” on Parliament staff salaries is deliberately MISLEADING. The Remuneration Authority recommended much lower salaries for the Parliament staff than that stated by the PSA. In fact, the Remuneration recommended cutting the Parliament staff salaries by more than $500,000 annually. Current position holders in Parliament were recommended to continue at their current salary point (which was actually set by the Parliament not by the Remuneration Authority). However, once position holders vacate, the next position holder is recommended to be paid at the lower, more appropriate (and relative to all other Ministries) salary clearly recommended by the Remuneration Authority. At the same time, the Remuneration Authority can only recommend. It is Legislative Assembly alone who can approve the recommendations made, which it has not done. The Legislative Assembly can also approve that the staff salaries recommended by the Remuneration Authority be made effective immediately, and not wait for the position to be vacated.
4. The PSA comparison between drivers at the Palace Office and the Prime Minister‟s office is FALSE. The PSA release failed to point to the actual position titles, and actual salaries they refer to in their statement (as they did for Parliament staff), because they actually cannot. The two positions are in two different reports and are actually the reverse of what PSA falsely states.
5. The PSA statement that salaries of the Town and District Officers are at the bottom of the scale is FALSE and MISLEADING. The Remuneration Authority actually recommended increasing the salaries of town officers and district officers. It will hold even further consultation (as recommended in the Report) to confirm that these positions are in the correct salary range, whether some villages need more than one town officer to share the load, and whether some additional district officer positions would be justified. The Remuneration Authority specifically stated that the nature and responsibilities of these positions have changed significantly since 1982 (when the last evaluation was done).
6. The PSA statement that “almost all the Human Resources Officers in Government do not know how to implement the Performance Management System (PMS) so that we would be able to manage the performance of the all the employees in Government” is FALSE. This unfairly assumes almost all HR officers in Government cannot perform the job requirements they are paid for. The Remuneration Authority is confident from its consultations that HR officers are qualified and able to implement the PMS.
7. The PSA recommendation that certain training was needed and that it would take at least 4-6 months to do training required for the Report implementation is TRUE. The Remuneration Authority agrees. In fact, if the recommendations were to be approved, the Remuneration Authority recommended that the PMS does not need to be effective until mid-2017. This gives Ministries more than 12 months – effectively double the maximum time the PSA says is needed.
8. The PSA statement that $5 million from the World Bank was used to conduct this “review” is FALSE. What this may be referring to is that $5million was set aside in the 2014/2015 national budget to cover any adjustments to the Government wage bill as a result of the Report recommendations. The adjustments recommended by the Authority was well below this figure. The $5 million was instead used by Government to help pay for 5% Cost of Living Allowance (recommended by PSA) awarded to public servants in December 2015. The Authority has never been funded by the World Bank, or any donor. This work was completed by Tongans, selected by Cabinet, and paid for by Tonga‟s own budget. Hay Group (whose method was used) was engaged to train, advise and provide ongoing quality checking and bench marking information to the Authority evaluation work – within budget. The Remuneration Authority operates on an annual budget of approximately $350,000 (which is not always used). From this which Hay Group fees are paid, meeting fees (set by Cabinet same with other Authorities), only one staff, one small office, and one car. Compare this to other Government Authority budgets.
9. The PSA‟s statement that the majority of CEOs are recommending deferral of Remuneration Reports pending proper consultation is FALSE. The majority of CEOs actually recommended further consultation to be provided to be more inclusive of all their staff, but with their supervision as to scope – to be completed before April 15, 2016. In fact, subject to certain CEO conditions being met (including another 9% COLA salary increase for public servants), they actually recommend the Remuneration Authority‟s Reports, and recommendations, be made effective from 1 July, 2016.
10. The Remuneration Authority‟s recommendations in its two Remuneration Reports of June 2014 (covering the PM, Ministers, Judges, Members of Parliament, Police, HM‟s Armed Forces, Prisons, Fire, all Public Enterprise CEOs, Boards, Commissions, Authorities, Tribunals and certain Senior Government Executive Positions) and September 2015 (covering all Public Servants in Government Ministries) are still with Cabinet. No decision has been made to finally approve or disapprove. The Remuneration Authority is not pushing for either. We have always been clear from the start, we do the work independently, do it the best we can, with the best tools available. Whether it is accepted is not our decision to make, or to advocate for.
11. The position taken by PSA is not representative of all public servants. If the PSA successfully convinces the Government to reject the recommendations in the Report, it effectively disenfranchises non-PSA members, and every public servant who would might have accepted the Report‟s recommendations. It removes the right of tax payers to have their interests considered by the Remuneration Authority when making salary decisions. It takes away the rights of employees and businesses in the private sector, who from this review are clearly paid, on average, much lower than public servants. By taking this position, the PSA knows better than all its members, and all non-PSA members. The Remuneration Authority clearly and respectfully disagrees.
12. Finally, at no time did the PSA contact the Remuneration Authority to directly raise with us its complete rejection of the Report. The PSA‟s reference to and threat of a public worker‟s strike is well noted. There are laws to govern peaceful resolution and effective industrial action. For that reason, public servants should be allowed to make up their own minds before they are incited to take industrial action.
13. Again, like the PSA, we do consider the interests of the public servants. At the same time the Remuneration Authority is charged by the law to take into account the wider national and public good when making recommendations. The law requires us to also consider the tax payer‟s interests, the working people of Tonga who pay our salaries. We consider the private sector interests, who also pay significant taxes that help pay our salaries, but whose workers are paid relatively less than public servants. We must also respect the Government‟s final prerogative to set its salary and wage bill, whether according to properly qualified assessments and recommendations, or not.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Remuneration Authority Office at 28703 or contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Members of the Remuneration Authority: 1. Mrs. Siosi C. Mafi (Chairperson) 2. Mr. Posesi Bloomfield (Deputy Chairperson) 3. Mrs. Meleseini Lomu 4. Dr. Taniela Fusimalohi 5. Dr. Pita Taufatofua