400 civil servants sign petition against new reforms

More than 400 civil servants from across the country have signed a petition to oppose the Bhutan Civil Service system reform made by the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).

In-service bachelor’s degree holders claim to be”demotivated, demoralized and perplexed” by the latest reform and its amendment notification on March 4, 2016.

The civil servants also lodged its concerns to the Human Resource Committee of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources and to RCSC.  However, after unfavorable response from the ministry committee and RCSC, the group plans to now appeal to the Prime Minister.

Over 20 civil servants working in Thimphu and Paro, representing the other civil servants across the country, gathered to discuss their dissatisfaction yesterday. Close to 12,000 civil servants are said to be affected by the reform, which is almost 50 percent of the total 26,699 civil servants.

Civil servants who were already in Professional and Management (P&M) category (in P5, P4 & P3) as of January 2016 have now been assigned new position levels, such as Senior Supervisory (SS)4, SS3 & SS2 as per amendment notification on March 4, 2016 of the reform.

The reform is said to have directly impacted the civil servants by remapping from P&M level to SS levels and fixation of 5 year promotion period.

“From among the five positions categories (Executive & Specialist, Professional & Management, Supervisory & Support and Operational) the promotion period for only the SS group has been extended from existing four to five years, while for other categories it has remained same,” voiced the group.

The reform has particularly affected mid-level civil servants in S&S category serving as technicians, nurses, administrative assistants, RNR extension staff, forest rangers, IT technical associates, librarians, account assistants, asst. engineers, asst. architects, revenue/customs/tax inspectors, budget assistants, personal assistants, clinical officers, junior instructors, research assistants, clerks, and most civil servants in all 19 Major Occupational Groups.

The group said, “On one hand, RCSC is trying to harmonize civil service and bring about much needed improvements through civil service reform trying transform from good to great. On other hand, RCSC is creating such disparity, discrepancies and discrimination among the same family of civil servants which is defeating their own mandates and efforts to create a dynamic and professional civil service promoting to good governance.”

The group claimed that the reform was done without any consideration for the upgraded education qualifications to bachelor’s degree and the huge experiences the group has gained and accrued in serving in the field level for long period of time.

“Many take such move by RCSC as tantamount to downgrade, and hence are confused, demoralized and demotivated,” said Ugyen Tshering, a representative from Ministry of Agriculture.

Ugyen Tshering pointed out, “Many were compelled to upgrade because Position Classification System made it very stringent for climbing up the career ladder, that unless one upgrade, we were bound to get stagnated within the broadband promotions for entire service life.”

Many such challenges in pursuing a bachelor’s degree was pointed out where some lamented for having sold properties and seeking private loans to pursue further studies.

“For getting enrolled for degree, we were put through stiff competition, in terms of written entrance exam. Very much like BCSE, enrollment was based on merit ranking,” the group said adding that apart from several sacrifices such as having to serve obligations, sacrifice of family life, up gradation was done at the cost of seniority loss, from 18 or more months, due to unaccounted study period plus one year promotion duration increase.

“All in-service qualification up gradation, be it on government scholarships or otherwise was done on due approval in the form of a valid Letter of Award from RCSC,” they pointed out.

The group also asserted that the civil servants in the P&M category enjoy several privileges, such as career advancement upto EX1/ES1. They are also offered government scholarships for Masters or PhD degrees, which in-service degree holders are not eligible to apply for.

For the reform of SS level extended period for SS level to five years, while the promotion period of other levels remain rigid, the group said, “This is going to significantly affect us in terms of accrued promotions delays. For example, ideally, in just over 20 years career, civil servants in SS group would get only 4 promotions while those in other categories would get 5. They said that the system is going to have substantial disadvantages comparatively in financial benefits, such as salary and increments.

Forest Ranger, Kinley Tshering, said, “The affected are mostly those groups of civil servants who majority serve in the remote areas, in the nooks and crannies of the country, often under poor working conditions, deprived of basic facilities.”

The group said that the system is going to create a non-uniformity in career track with various justification provided referring to the statement of the Constitution

The group suggests that in line with the Constitution, Bhutan Civil Service Act and Bhutan Civil Service Rules, 2012, maintain same promotion period for all categories and the vested right principle must be applicable from the time BCSS reform was effective (March 1, 2016). Hence, all remapped civil servants must come under the vested right principle.

The group also suggests to maintain civil servants who undertook qualification up gradation to bachelor’s degree in P&M category and allow in-service civil servants with a bachelor’s degree to advance along S&S to P&M rather than to SS.

“If in-service civil servants with a bachelor’s degree cannot be considered, at least consider those who passed BCSE but non-select,” the group reasoned.

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