BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.
NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Interviews not necessary
Since I started writing this column, I have always been mindful of the need to stay relevant. The last article article dealing with certain rules in the Public Service generated many queries from workers who seem uncertain of their employment terms and conditions. Mind you, I don’t want to cast myself in the role of the Dear Christine on workers’ rights but it appears to be what readers want.
The facilitator/chairman of the talks between Government and unions representing or misrepresenting customs workers, as the case may be, promised appointments. In order to give effect to that promise, the Chief Personnel Officer published circulars advertising vacancies for posts ranging from Assistant Comptroller to Customs Officer III.
Those circulars created quite a stir among officers because they felt that these posts should be filled by the persons who have been acting in them. Before you jump to the conclusion that they are being unreasonable, consider that some of these persons would have been acting or employed temporarily in these posts in excess of ten years. To my mind, an interview is used to determine if a person can do a particular job. Performing the job satisfactorily for ten or more years should be more than sufficient evidence than an interview for authorities to conclude that a person is suited for that job.
It is a serious indictment on the Personnel Administration Division if after ten years performing a job, they still need to interview an officer to determine his competence for the same job. They would have been renewing those contracts every six months over that period based on satisfactory performance. That is probably one of the main concerns of customs officers. It is not unreasonable and their concerns have some support in the Public Service Act.
That act was brought into force on December 31, 2007. It provides at subsection 13 (7) that any person, who had been temporarily employed for three years prior to that date and has the qualifications for appointment, shall be entitled to be appointed.
Subsection 13 (8) applies to appointed officers who had been acting in higher posts for the same period. It states:
Where 31st December, 2007 a vacancy exists in an established office and the person who occupies the office has been acting for a period of not less than 3 years immediately before 31st December, 2007 and is qualified by virtue of the Civil Establishment (Qualifications) Order to be appointed to the office and there is no other person whose qualifications render that person more suitable for appointment, the person shall be entitled to be appointed to the office.
A person’s eligibility for promotion under that section would have been established since December 2007. If there was someone else more suited that person should have been identified long before ten years had passed. It would be unreasonable, and most likely illegal, to ask an officer to submit himself for interview for his job, in these circumstances.
The next question on your minds should be: What about appointments for the other persons who do not meet the requirements of subsections 13 (7) and (8)? Their salvation be found at subsection 13 (11) and at paragraph 9 of the Recruitment and Employment Code.
Subsection 13 (11) provides that no established office in the Public Service shall be allowed to remain vacant for a period of more than one year except the Governor-General on the advice of the Service Commission allows the vacancy; or the office had been frozen by the Minister. We can safely assert that neither of these eventualities occurred.
I have been asked by many of the persons involved for advice on how to proceed. As a trade unionist, I have advised them that their second best option should be to fill out the application forms and then proceed to court for a declaration that the persons who had been acting for years are entitled to be appointed without interviews.