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Discussion Forum

Employment Termination in Caribbean Public Services? Why is it so hard?

August 11 2016 - by Dr. Lois Parkes

Right across Caribbean public services among CARICOM countries, there is a common complaint that it is virtually impossible to fire a public officer.

1) Is this complaint valid?

2) What are the root causes of this 'winning streak' on the part of public officers in disciplinary cases against government as an employer?

3) What solutions would you recommend for the justifiable removal of public officers?

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Previous Comments

Jane - Reply

This is very interesting

Maurice Smith - Reply

In a few instances with which I am familiar, there have been questions raised about the quality of the documentation which serves as evidence. I am also aware that terminations become difficult when established procedures are not adhered to. In thone cases, employees are reinstated on the grounds of technicalities with the substantive matters going unheard.

Lois Parkes

Thanks for your feedback, Maurice. I totally concur with your views. The lack of documentation and the failure to adhere to procedure are the main reasons why these cases cannot stick. To further expand the point, there is also poor to non-existent performance management processes being adhered to, hence the lack of data to sustantiate cases of dismissal on the grounds of poor performance.

Some may argue that the rules are favourable to employees, and places a greater burden of proof on employers. While amendments to the various Regulations and Staff Orders may be necessary, I personally would not want our public service rules to allow for snap dismissals. This would create other kinds of challenges, such as increased political interferance (it is exists to various extents across Caribbean public services - let's face it) in the appointment and promotion of public servants.

Tamara Wright-Brown

I concur with your comments Maurice. This brings into question the competence of the managers/supervisors. I believe that more attention must be given as it relates to investing in employees development.

Winston Surherland - Reply

Its a valid observation but in many cases the finger is pointing back at prople in status positions. Why do I say that? I have never ever met an employee who came into a job not fired up, highly interested and ready to give 110 percent. The question is what goes wrong after employment and induction. Assuming there is an induction.

I believe many employees are not given meaningful work and in many cases if they speak out they are seen as bad apples and it becomes a downward spiral especially because many managers lack basic skills in having a conversation with their direct reports and properly managing them. In many cases dismissals are not about inappropriate behaviour. These tend to get resolved quickly. The difficult ones are about performance. And there in lies the problem. What does good look like. Many managers believe making a rounder wheel is what is required when 80% is good enough and they frustrate the direct   report with unreasonable behaviour.

To too it all the culture is one of job for life. The unions will fight tooth and nail to protect every job even when the evidence says thid person needs to go? Why? Because the relationship is adversarial and every encounter is about win lose. I say changing the culture is the problem to be solved. Its hard work and will take time but if we value people as we say we do then lets fix our working practices, mindsets and processes. People will amaze u if you invest in them.

Lois Parkes

Winston, excellent points. Work practices, processes and culture. One of the first starting points to examine how we select persons for jobs, and in particular for managerial/supervisory positions

Tamara Wright-Brown

Well said Winston. I am right there with you. As you said its hard work but with dedication and a few who also see the vision it can be accomplished. 

Audrey Gittens-Gilkes - Reply

The conditions, according to the Constitution, under which an employee can be terminated is seldom in place. There is often the absence of documentation of any wrong doing.  Whenever a major breach of the Public Service Rules occurs, and there is a call for termination, the Service Commission can do very little except to issue a first warning, in writing. to the employee.

Lois Parkes

Audrey, thanks for responding. You have hit on a common, recurrent issue - the lack of documentation



Helene Davis Whyte - Reply

I don't think it is necessarily difficult yo dismiss someone in the Caribbean Public Sector.  This view is usually held by managers who do not want to take the time to follow the grievance and disciplinary procedures.  Many managers do not prperly prepare their cases.  They expect that tribuals will be willing participants in "Joe Reid" trials where accused persons are railroaded and found guilty without any supporting evidence.  Also many managers believe the worker's duty is to prove innocence amd not for managers to prove guilt.