Striking staff demand transparent audit before job cuts

Striking staff demand transparent audit before job cuts
December 22 18:15 2015

Staff on strike at the finance ministry have called on the Civil Service Commission to conduct a transparent and comprehensive resource audit before making mass job cuts.

President Abdulla Yameen had ordered the dismissal of more than 70 of the 379 civil servants at the ministry, but with the resignation of the ministry’s top civil servant last week and the strike today, the government is insisting the 70 staff will be assured jobs in other ministries.

“No employee will be fired. They will be transferred to other government ministries. Some degree of patience is required in such matters,” Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s spokesman told The Maldives Independent today.

The cuts were proposed to improve efficiency, he added.

Hundreds of staff participated in today’s work stoppage after a meeting with the CSC on Monday yielded no results.

“We have submitted a petition to the CSC asking for a proper human resource audit and a re-structuring plan before any job cuts are instituted. We also want the commission to keep the process transparent and involve us,” an employee who wished to remain anonymous said.

Hundreds of staff signed the petition.

Jihad this morning denied that his staff were on strike, but acknowledged “obvious discontent” among his staff. “No one will be fired,” he said. He met with his team today, but details of the meeting have not been made public.

The firing of 70 staff would “undermine and destroy the institution,” a second senior employee who wished to remain anonymous said.

The historic strike – only the second by civil servants in recent history – comes after Yameen insisted on making the dismissals, saying the Maldivian civil service is overstaffed.

“Last week, I had to do something I did not like. Last week, there had to be changes to many positions in the Ministry of Finance… I apologetically say, I find ministry of finance to be staffed with many highly skilled employees. But if you look at their input, I believe they are better utilised elsewhere,” he said yesterday.

Yameen has called on the CSC to conduct a comprehensive human resource and performance audit. He described civil servants as “lethargic” and criticised them for failing to answer phone calls or reply to letters from the public.

“I can tell you today, our civil service is over-staffed. There are more staff than required for the services we provide. We have been informed that the civil service must be downsized significantly… If we want to increase benefits, we must have an affordable civil service. That is why a human resource audit is important.”

There are more than 20,000 civil servants in the Maldives and a total of more than 40,000 people employed by the state in the Maldives. A large portion of the state budget accounts for wages and salaries, and successive governments have spoken on the need for a smaller government to reduce a persisting deficit.

Yameen’s administration has long-been criticised over large number of political appointments. There are some 682 political appointees.