Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Postal strike - civil service in revolt?

Civil service has lost its meaning these days. As I recall growing up in Malaysia, civil service has a different beat to a private service. If you are a public servant, you work for the government. The government takes care of you in the form or job permanency (i.e nobody loses his job in the civil service). Along with complete health care for you and your dependents, you also get a pension when you retire. As for strikes, this is simply out of the question. The private sector, on the other hand, operates on a supply-demand basis. The pay is based on market value, but there is no absolute job security, health care package, or a pension to look forward to. If you are not happy with your employee, you can go on strike or you can quit your job.

The public sector typically comprises essential services (although many countries have privatized a large portion of this, often to the detriment of the public). As such, it is my personal opinion that public sector employees should not be allowed to go on strike if it means crippling the smooth running of a public service. The government, and therefore civil servants, hold a monopoly in all essential services. To turn this monopoly into a bargaining chip for pay rise demands is just holding the public hostage. To be fair to civil servants in Australia, the condition of service has become very "private sector-like", hence it is not surprising that the same private sector malaise (e.g. strike actions) also affects the public sector.

The postal service is a very important public service. Before the advent of the internet, it was the primary means of communication for every single person living in even the remotest part of the country. Even now this role is still very important. Nobody should be using his privileged position, as a civil servant with monopolistic power, to hold the public hostage at any time.

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