That said, the change recorded in the latest report on staffing does not involve a huge number of people. Although the public-sector workforce is, at 6,654, of impressive – and arguably overblown – size for this small Island community, it has increased by only 25 over the past
12 months. That is movement in the wrong direction irrespective of economic conditions, but it cannot be described as a catastrophic trend.
It is, moreover, highly likely that we are witnessing a lag before the effects of the recession are felt to the full extent. If the States’ workforce and their union representatives are inclined to believe that the latest statistics show that nothing is likely to change, they are probably mistaken. Economic Development Minister Alan Maclean’s comments about revising the rules when the present five-year moratorium on compulsory redundancies comes to an end must still be taken seriously.
It is, meanwhile, significant that the Strategic Plan, due to be debated at the beginning of June, proposes an across-the-board review of the terms and conditions of public-sector employment.
The big question, of course, is whether government will be able to meet any targets it chooses to set on job reduction. Experience shows that in a parallel area – cost and efficiency savings – achievements might have been made, but they have generally fallen sort of public expectations.
It will also be interesting to see if any general revision of employment policies will address another serious issue which government has so far failed to deal with in any way that can be called remotely effective. This is the matter of succession at the highest levels of the civil service and in other organisations such as at least some uniformed services.
For many years the declared policy has been to encourage and prepare home-grown talent to succeed to the top jobs, but, time and again, the practice has been to recruit from outside the Island. It is high time that this expensive, wasteful and frankly insulting – from the point of view of those passed over – course of action was severely curtailed.