THE government lost about $7.5 million in revenue after finance and accounting officers across the civil service withdrew their services from Monday to Friday last week in what the Department of Finance called illegal “coordinated sick leave”.
“The impact of this action on service delivery has been severe. No payments to vendors or employees were processed and, more importantly, accounting and revenue collection were affected. The estimated financial impact of this coordinated disease for the government was $7.5 million due to loss or loss of revenue and (loss) of efficiency,” the Ministry of Finance said.
Pia Glover-Rolle, Minister of State for the Civil Service, said she was awaiting a final report on the number of people involved in the work stoppage. However, at the height of the case, up to 100 workers may have failed to show up for work.
Bahamas Public Services Union President Kimsley Ferguson did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
The department said the immediate impact of the work stoppages is that promised payments to civil servants could again be delayed.
“The Prime Minister had indicated in the supplementary budget that a decision to reinstate these increases would have been taken around the mid-year budget, which would cost the government an additional $7 million. Given the losses suffered by the sick, this reinstatement would in all likelihood be delayed,” the ministry said.
The Department of Finance added: “As this was not an industrial action authorized by the Bahamas Public Service Union, the bargaining agent for this group of employees, the government is not aware of any grievance. BPSU President Mr Kimsley Ferguson was also unavailable to meet with officials during the entire week of the sick.
“However, Mr. Ferguson had previously been in contact with officials in the Ministry of Finance regarding matters relating to finance and accountants. was complicated by a decision by senior officials in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to grant these same officers a salary increase and unauthorized promotions in February 2021.
“Finance and accounting officers received an average salary increase of $5,000 this fiscal year, although no approval was ever granted by the Public Service Commission. This lack of Public Service Commission approval means that these officers cannot receive letters of employment reflecting their new salaries, nor would their pension benefits reflect their new salaries.
“Work began in October 2021 to correct this situation. Yet some finance and accounting officers apparently believe they should be exempt from public service financial rules. Through this coordinated work stoppage, they felt they could have compelled the government to accept this unauthorized wage increase.
The Department of Finance has said that no group of employees should hold the entire civil service hostage.
“It is unfortunate that this selfish act has impacted so many other public officials through the possible continuation of raise deferrals and also government contractors,” the department said. “The government is committed to continuing the exercise to regularize this unauthorized salary increase received by these agents. The government would also take steps to minimize future disruptions to its services through the illegal removal of labor from this category of employees.