Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said there was no political agenda behind their decision to move the retirement age from 60 to 55.
He made the remarks during a talanoa session at Madhuvani Sangam Primary School, Rakiraki, Ra, yesterday.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the retirement age before the 1987 coup, was 60, but it was changed during the Sitiveni Rabuka-led government to 55. It was then changed back to 60 during the Laisenia Qarase government in 2002.
He said there were political reasons Mr Rabuka reduced the retirement age to 55 and Mr Qarase increased it to 60.
“Now I will explain to you why the Bainimarama Government did it.
“The Bainimarama Government reduced the retirement age from 60 to 55 because 70 per cent of the population in Fiji is below the age of 40 and 50 per cent is below the age of 27, so we have more younger people than older people. We need to give our youths more opportunities and this is very important,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said people in the age group of over 40 were in the minority.
“I am in the minority and all those people here below the age of 40 are the majority. So we need to cater for them and give them more employment opportunities.”
He said the secondary reason was that they found a lot of young people bringing in new ideas, were qualified and had access to technology.
He said the previous governments apart from that of the Bainimarama Government had reduced the retirement age to 55, but what set them apart, was that the current Government had no political agenda behind their decision.
He said they wanted to emphasise in giving more opportunities to the upcoming younger generation of Fijians in the workforce.
Civil Servants Contracts
“Now, what does having a contract mean?
“Having a contract does not mean that you will be paid less. In fact, civil servants have been paid a lot more than what they were paid before,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said headteachers and principals received 30 to 40 per cent pay rise, while the nurses received pay rises of up to 70 per cent.
“So the contract is there, you can get a contract of five years or contract of three years. The regulations state you should get a contract of up to three years but with the nurses, teachers they get contracts for five years.”
He said for nurses and teachers there would be an automatic renewal of their contracts provided that they had not done anything wrong while serving their previous contract.
He said the issuing of the contracts to civil servants and other Government sectors followed the same employment principle as that of being employed in the private sector.
“If you step outside the civil service, everywhere else in Fiji, if you work in the private sector, everybody has a contract; nobody will give you a job for life.”
He said the same principle was followed even by those being employed in banks and other private sectors as well as those of Government sector positions.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the standard contract people had was a three-year contract, as it was the case for him before joining the Government.
In addition, around 70 per cent of the civil servants already had contracts in any case even before the civil service reform.
Issuing of Contracts
“In fact what we have seen now, we have increased everybody’s salary. The base salary has gone up, and under the new system you also have the ability to get pay rise on a yearly basis or every two years.”
He said the issuing of contracts and the increase of salaries would be determined by an individual’s performance at the workplace.
“If I work hard and he works harder then he should be rewarded more if he is not going to perform and spend half his time drinking yaqona. Why should he be given the pay rise?” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said their new system encouraged people in working harder.
“You remember the civil servant’s job is to serve the public and that is why we are called public servants. We are servants of the public. That is our job.
“Not for the public to serve us. A lot of public servants have that attitude, I give you an example. I come and see you tomorrow at 9am and I am a poor farmer. So I come at 9am, and then you say “no no I do not want to see you today, you go, come back next week,” then I will go and next week I come again and the staff tells me “oh he has gone on leave” and that I come back after two weeks.”
He said this had happened in the past in most ministries.
“The contract does not in any way diminish your ability as an employee. It does not stop you from getting loans from the bank. It does not stop you from being able to get a mortgage out,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said none of that would be affected but it was put in place in order to ensure that those in the civil service performed well.
Performance Management Systems (PMS)
He said under PMS, if all of us get assessed on a yearly basis in different bands of the salary, those who performed well would be recognised.
“If I do not perform, I do not get recognised. I do not move in the salary band but he will because he worked harder.”
He said if civil servants improved the quality of service that meant they were serving the Fijian public.
He reiterated that at the end of the day civil servants were being paid by the tax-payers money. Having these contracts and PMS in place encouraged efficiency and high performance amongst them (civil servants).