President’s Annual Report – CICSA 2020
John Bothwell – President 2019-2021
As I write this on Easter Monday I am reminded of the importance of celebrating success in the face of adversity, and of renewal, and of commitment. Themes familiar to any civil servant or member of the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association (CICSA). Rather than spend the public holiday in my hammock I am committed to getting certain tasks done, not the least of them being starting this 2020-21 Annual Report for the CICSA AGMs. At those meetings we will be renewing our Association, electing new members to the Management Council to lead us through 2021 and into 2022. We will also look back at a 2020 that was fraught with uncertainty for everyone, and worse for many. We will also turn our thoughts to a future that looks no better. But before we do that, together, let us celebrate what we were able to achieve, together, as an Association, in 2020.
Like everyone else our Management Council took the impetus of COVID and moved our meetings on-line. Eventually ending up with hybrid meetings where some persons are together in the Association office and others are joining by Zoom. This was some-thing we had trialed previously using Skype or other tools to try to include the Cayman Brac Directors. Now as this way of working becomes mainstream we try it with our AGM, to try to make the Association as accessible to all of our members as possible.
We also moved more of our communications with members online. If you’re not on our Facebook group – if you’re not on Face-book like I am not – we’re sorry. We know its only one media out of many that we have to cover. But Facebook posts and video blogs posted there or on the Association YouTube channel were the best way we had to get right to our members when we could not meet in person. I invite you to log on and follow us if you are on either platform. You may have also noticed us trying to reach out through direct emails to members as well. The more you hear from us, and the more we can hear from you, the better our Association will be. And if you are a big Facebook fan please volunteer with our PR Committee. We need more people to help us talk to more members. We need your help. We also used Radio Cayman’s Talk Today for more one-way communication to a wider audience that included both our members but the public as well who need to know the good work that the Civil Service, and the Association, are doing. We for our members, you for the rest of the Cayman Islands.
The dark cloud of all of that electronic communication was that we were unable to have our General Working Meeting in 2020. Or the summer school bag donations to members. So the last time we met formally was the 2020 AGM. But the Association did not stop working for you and we did meet informally, with the summer school bags being replaced with a Christmas 2020 member social on Grand Cayman. And a spring 2021 members event in Cayman Brac. After the year we all had being together supporting our members socially, our ability to renew bonds as individuals, was the most important thing the Association could do for our members. If it’s something you want to see more of please search out the Social Committee after this meeting (or talk to anyone on Management Council really) as we want your help for 2021. Success should breed success but only with your help. CICSA is a membership organisation and we depend on our members to make the Association happen. These events, including the AGMs, are also good opportunities to meet other civil servants. I wouldn’t use the word network but at CICSA events, and especially by volunteering with CICSA, you meet a lot of civil servants you otherwise might not. You get to see different perspectives, and opportunities, within the Civil Service. And that benefits everyone.
The Cayman Islands Civil service Association is a member organisation. And we represent our members interests directly with our employer. Over the last year we have continued to meet with the Portfolio of the Civil Service, and even the Deputy Governor, to raise issues on behalf of all of our members. We also have a dedicated team of Management Council members on our Grievance Committee who members have turned to over the last year for more individual support with their employers. These are critical services that the Association performs. Speaking for our membership, or helping our members to speak for themselves. We particularly need people who know the Civil Service employment rules, and who understand people, to help on our Grievance Committee. During COVID everyone was locked down and focusing on getting the job done. But that left a lot of human resources problems festering and they have returned with a vengeance in 2021. We badly need conscientious people to help other members navigate the personnel protocols of the Civil Service. To give them a supportive ear to listen to their problem, help them understand when it is their fault, and help them explain to their employer when it is not.
We are also going to have the usual more service-wide issues to deal with in 2021. Again, many of these are leftovers from 2020 that got COVID-ed. We have talked with the POCS about the need to address disparities in pay across the civil service. Some good work was made last year and I will go on record again with the Association’s appreciation for the pay and particularly vacation days uplift that occurred moving hourly paid staff onto the monthly remuneration scale. But the remuneration review which was begun in 2020 did not get off the drawing board and we encourage the POCS to proceed quickly with it in 2021 as the imbalance in the middle of the pay grades in the service is getting worse, even without the issue of cost of living so many of our members suffer with. We also advocated for improvements from the Public Service Pension Board and were able to partner with the Civil Service Wellness Committee to host an online lunch & learn for members to hear directly from the PSPB and get their questions answered directly. It was one of the best attend of those sessions for the year. You need to know your pension numbers. If you do not, please contact the PSPB and find out.
In 2020 we were able to intercept a fumble by CINICO whereby certain prescription costs from the HSA were being passed on to members outside of the understood historic terms of our employment with Government. However we all know that the economic sustainability of health care coverage, for the civil service as for the rest of the country, is an issue that is not going away. While we are not here to solve the national problem the CICSA are here to represent our members’ interests for civil service health insurance coverage. And to remind anyone who asks that it is more complicated than taxing civil servants to pay for other national health care costs and calling it a co-pay.
But we must recognise that it is a complicated issue and there are real economic constraints involved. Economic constraints which will likely be exacerbated by a COVID-related economic downturn globally and locally. Hopefully a short one as there is also the pent-up international demand for the tourism and financial services which Cayman offers. Which the Civil Service facilitate. As well as local entrepreneurship in response to tourism job losses and the like. But do not doubt that many of our members, your fellow civil servants, are hurting financially and socially. Families went from multiple incomes to just the civil servant’s salary. We are grateful that the Government has recognised so far that any reduction in civil service take home pay will immediately be felt in the wider economy because, as we saw with the previous recessionary pay cuts, the result is civil servants spending less on restaurants and other disposable income precisely when the economy, the entrepreneurs, need a strong local economy. We facilitate the national economy not just through our services to it, but through our participation in it.
Speaking economically you will see separately that we have [audited] financial accounts available for the last year here for you at this AGM. While the rest of us were caught up in the big pictures we could only do that because our Treasurers were doing a sterling job of keeping the Association finances in hand. And leveraging improved accounting systems to be able to work faster with producing the audited accounts. Within the Association we should be very proud of this as it is a big step forward for us as an organisation.
I realise that this long review of what the Civil Service Association has accomplished over the last year was unable to dwell on any-thing in detail. So I would like to conclude by repeating what is perhaps our biggest success of the year. The Grand Cayman and (now) Cayman Brac member social events. This is something we have all been wanting to do again for a few years. But for all of the unanticipated stresses of 2020-21 we have been able to celebrate ourselves, the members of CICSA. Without you there is no Association. Whether you were able to attend the events or not, that we had them is an accomplishment we as an Association should be proud of. And it gives us something to build on for 2021.
2021 is going to be like 2020 in a lot of respects. With COVID still in the air around the world it is not going to be an easy year. But if we wanted easy we would not be civil servants. And in 2021, like in 2020, your Cayman Islands Civil Service Association is going to have a lot of highlights. And we want you to be a part of them. Thank you for starting to be by coming to this Annual General Meeting, the ones of you participating on Zoom, and particularly the ones of you here in person
ANNUAL COMMITTEE REPORT
COMMITTEE NAME: Grievance Committee
CHAIRPERSON: Liana Coggins
Other Committee Members: Bobeth O’Garro, Clara Ebanks and James Watler
REPORTING PERIOD: March 2020 – March 2021
Number of Meetings held for the year: 40 +
Committee Member Register – was not taken.
MAJOR ACTIVITIES SINCE LAST REPORT:
A meeting was held with the Deputy Governor to present our findings after working with employees.
The main issues addressed by the grievance committee covered the following topics:
HR (poor recruitment practices, employee agreements, salary, job descriptions)
Leave: Sick leave/ additional sick leave/ annual leave
Overtime / Comp time (time-in-lieu)
Health and safety
Bullying , harassment and discrimination concerns
Concerns have been at both the departmental and ministry levels.
SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS, EVENTS, DEVELOPMENTS, PROGRESS AND PREDICTIONS: Over a 1 year period we were able to represent almost 100 people, with an increase during the months of November 2020 – March 2021.
DETAILS OF THE GOALS/OBJECTIVES FOR THE REPORTING PERIOD (2020-2021):
As a committee we aimed for fairness and equity for all employees.
We aimed to ensure that duty of care was taken. After evaluation of the situation our aim was to represent all employees and present the grievance to the relevant personnel ensuring that protocol is observed.
Grievance Log – to keep track of grievances filed with different members of the committee for record keeping and to ensure that everyone can be apprised of the status of grievances. The challenge is to use/update it regularly and a dedicated email where it can be used as a share cloud file.
Representation of members – several members were assisted throughout the reporting period, many of which were major grievances involving higher level civil service officers and requiring intervention from the DG. To date many of the more serious issues remain unresolved but many have moved forward. The aim is to have a marketing campaign to encourage members to involve us at the earliest stages of their grievance to avoid having it balloon.
PROPOSED NEW ACTIVITIES AND PROJECTS:
Dedicated email access for grievance with access given to all members for a unified and uniform approach to communication. The general CICSA email is currently being used but the GC email was proposed, accepted and is to be setup for the incoming committee members.
Marketing campaign to inform members of their rights and the avenues to have their grievances addressed at the earliest stage.
TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
We recommend that grievance committee members and all MC members received training in mediation.
BUDGETING: No budget has been assigned to the grievance committee.
Members new to the Grievance Committee should get some type of overview/training before commencing duties and continue to be provided with continuous guidance.
The following Recommendations have been presented to the DG:
Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination
We note efforts are being made by the CIG.
Those handling grievances need to be appropriately trained, not just HR Personnel.
The Anti-bullying policy needs to be further development to reflect consequences of violations (both for false accusations and those who have been found to have committed a violation).
Independent Investigation & Mediation Team (not under the DG’s office or POCS but with the authority to make binding orders). The Service has reached a stage where it would benefit from investing in appointing an impartial committee, charged with dealing with disputes, grievances and other related issues that Civil Servants as our numbers indicate that there are many. This investigative and mediation body would relieve the DG of the many who crave an audience with him. This will free him up to be able to address more complex issues and provide swift resolution of matters thus reducing absenteeism and further conflict.
Managers need to be evaluated for suitability for positions of management and leadership roles
Reintroduce the HR Audit unit, conduct HR Audits on an annual/biannual basis.
Bullies need to be investigated thoroughly and removed during the investigation.
HEALTH and SAFTEY:
There is an increase of incidences on the job regarding health and safety
Establish health and safety policy where required at department levels and ensure implementation
Have a health and safety officer at departments that require one as part of the international requirement (e.g. MRCU, FIRE etc.)
Safety is crucial throughout the CS and therefore in some areas it is even more critical. In these areas, such as MRCU, Environmental Health, CBC, Police, Fire and Prison are some of the high risk areas that need to have Health and Safety Officers onboard.
Give Civil Service Health & Safety and Occupational Therapy Officers service-wide remit perhaps as part of Ombudsman’s Office to give them the authority to enforce changes.
Ensure mental health first aid training is provided (we note efforts are being made by the CIG).
Consider employing an experience Occupational Psychiatrist/Psychologist for the CIG.
Succession planning is not at the appropriate level (we note efforts being made by the CIG)
Ensure that qualified Caymanians are offered positions that they qualify for
Poor HR practices, interviewers are not properly trained
Provide training where necessary to hone skills where a CS is lacking
Hiring decisions are not always consistent with best HR practice or our laws and regulations
Employees have indicated that they have been asked to act in ways that contravene some of these practices, laws and regulations during interviews.
We are not aware of the Civil Service man power and many employees could be better placed elsewhere.
Ensure that HR TEAMS are suited to HR. There are numerous writings on the desirous qualities of a successful HR Practitioner.
Ensure that a qualified HR personnel is involved with recruitment and hiring.
Ensure that we commence work on succession planning.
CICSA MC has for years been recommending a Manpower Survey. We believe this would be a critical tool, critical to the whole equation of Hiring, Recruiting and having the right persons for the right jobs.
In conjunction with a workforce planning exercise we recommend that a system wide ‘manpower survey’ is conducted in order to establish skills within the CS and determine skills needed that are not now onboard
HR Audit is reintroduced that will once again review recruitment processes at all levels, not just for senior posts.
Robust HR audit tool used to capture departures from international best practices where the law is silent
Multipoint reporting system for bullying harassment discrimination, malpractice and maladministration with triage or red flag system to identify.
ALL employee complaints must be investigated thoroughly with reports provided to the relevant parties. Report recommendations for remediation should be followed strictly.
The Grievance Committee has had a very trying year as the situation many find themselves in as a result of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were novel. Additionally the added level of stress and worry served to compound other issues. Unfortunately most grievances remain unresolved because employees are afraid to formally report issues, though they may have been advised to make a formal complaint or to speak to the next manager up. In most cases we provided verbal advice to employees. For those civil servants who have formalized the grievance process, we have made written representation, once requested, on their behalf, have requested meetings on behalf of some and have sat in meeting with others to give them the much needed support. We have provided employees with information regarding their rights and their responsibilities as a civil servant.
Problems have sometimes been resolved by the employee leaving the department/ministry by applying for a job elsewhere or by requesting a transfer or secondment. In most of these cases the employees go on to function without issue. Some employees are on sick leave or are otherwise absent due to work related stress as a result of the unresolved issues. Where we have been successful, at least partially, a very limited number of employees have been given a chance to act in new positions/further develop themselves.
A major cause for concern is that the majority of the employees reported that they did not use the engagement survey to report/reflect their concern/issue. We wish to implore employees to use the engagement survey to truly express their concerns and experience. Employees are also encouraged and need to be reminded to initiate formal grievance proceedings with the Grievance committee as early as possible.
L. Coggins April 8, 2021
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