Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A long awaited revolution: Our own fight against the “fannulloni”

An Italian economist and cabinet member (the equivalent of our Civil Service Commission), Renato Brunetta started a 'revolution' within the their public administration. He started a personal war against the fannulloni – sluggards – of the Italian workforce: “In a few months there has been an almost 50% drop in the number of sick days and I’m no magician”, he said during a press conference. On a yearly base, that means 60.000 workers were added to this sector, without spending a dime.

The civil service is there to help citizens in their interactions with the government and make things easier for everyone. But in many places the government service is some sort of safe haven for people who don’t like working. This leads into endless queues in public offices and an enormous waste of public money. Governments, in fact, allocates billions to public sector wages but still productivity level has been consistently less than the private sector. Government employees tend to produce less than private workers do.

In order to reverse this trend of inefficiency, Brunetta revised the Italian public sector pay scheme. The salary is now made up of two parts, one is fixed while the other is linked to productivity, usually between about 10 and 15 euro. Brunetta made it clear that, if a public worker is at home due to illness, the second part will be reduced.

Journalists contend that “It is too early to tell if Mr. Brunetta's reforms have revolutionised national behaviour. Italians have a tendency to react swiftly and prudently to draconian new laws, but then to slide quietly back into their traditional ways when vigilance slackens and the immediate danger has passed”.

That may be true, but Brunetta’s predecessor, Luigi Nicolais, raised the wages of over 200,000 ministerial employees by 101 euro per month. He also introduced a new productivity based system which recognized the hours of overtime work, by increasing the salary, without any guarantee that the workers would actually increase their level of productivity. This, however, proved to be a rash move that did not result in any improvement.

Here in the Philippines, we have the Salary Standardization Laws. Some agencies even implement automatic 1-step annual pay increases and pay for overtime work. But overtime pay is counterproductive and accounts for greater inefficiency as more resources are infused to achieve the same output. We need our own revolution against our own sluggards.

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