There have been successive pay rises since 2005, says Government.
Government is always impartial about a general public service pay rise.
But the recommendation has to come from the Remuneration Tribunal.
This was the response on Wednesday afternoon from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi regarding a recent demand from teachers in Savai’i for an immediate pay rise.
“There are many issues the Tribunal has to take into account before it recommends any remuneration for the public service,” said PM Tuilaepa.
“This includes adjustment to inflation rates, disposable incomes, general cost of living, ability of the budget to absorb a pay rise – the right balance between consumption and development expenditure – and relativity of government scales to that of the private sector to ensure that we do not undermine the private sector initiatives through any irresponsible wage hikes.”
From 2005 to 2008, Government implemented a general pay rise for the public service of 42 percent, to be carried out in successive three year instalments to ease any crippling impact on the national budget. The latest general pay rise for public servants, by three percent, was implemented just two weeks ago.
“So the Tribunal is constantly reviewing the pay scale and regularly recommending to Cabinet when a pay rise should be implemented.”
Cabinet too is also aware of the need to adjust public service wages and work conditions from time to time.
“Change is constant and nothing stays the same. And if Cabinet sees fit, it will review issues like retirement age, working hours and other issues that intrinsically affect public servants and the workplace.”
In 1990, the Prime Minister said, Government decided to contract out Chief Executive Officer positions at three-year terms.
“This was done to improve upward mobility and to do away with bottlenecks in the systems. Far too many young qualified graduates were getting marooned – and frustrated – in the lower echelons of the ministries while at the top sat less qualified people who got very comfortable on the job.”
The problem with the current teacher situation in Savaii, the Prime Minister said, is that several separate issues are being muddled up in the exchange of opinions.
“There are three issues, I have identified, that are completely divorced from each other.
“First is retirement. Many of the teachers involved – and behind the scenes – are now in their 60s and way past the retirement age of 55. Retiring at 55 is the law, of which every public servant is aware.”
The proper process, he said, is that those who have reached 55 can apply to the Public Service Commission for an extension of their service. The PSC then bases its decision with a recommendation from the Ministry of Education.
“It takes into account issues such as your job performance record, specialisation, state of health and such. So it really is up to the discretion of the PSC if you should continue your service.
“And retirement is not a bad thing. At 55, you are still young to go out and set up a business, a farm, a store, run a fishing boat or spend time with your kids and grand kids overseas.”
The second issue, he said, involves teacher wages.
“The issue of a pay rise goes through the Remuneration Tribunal through a recommendation from the Ministry. Under current policy, relativity of scales is vitally important. We do not want a situation where there is a special pay rise for a particular profession and then all the other professions will be up in arms demanding a similar pay rise.
“For the teachers, their concerns have already been addressed and the Ministry of Education will inform the teachers accordingly.”
The sitting Tribunal panel members are Aliimuamua Esekia Solofa (chair), Toleafoa Afamasaga Faamatala and Matataualiitia Tupuola Afa Lesa.
The third issue, he said, is improving the quality of teaching and general education.
“That is the objective of the many programmes the Ministry is implementing at the moment.
“A whole range of programmes from expanding and streamlining the curriculum, upgrading syllabus content, providing quality teaching resources and classroom learning material, improving teaching skills and methodology through in-service training and post-grad opportunities for teachers, and upgrading school infrastructure by building new schools and extra classrooms.
“All these programmes are aimed at lifting education standards in the country. The bottom line of all this is that, Government wants to provide the best quality education possible for all children of this country. And that is what all parents want. It’s what really matters.”