Social employment faces cut

| 10/11/2010

(CNS): The civil service review team has told the Public Works Department to end its policy of social employment. According to its first report, which recommended $17 million in cuts to public spending in four agencies, government should not use the Public Works Department as somewhere to employ people with low skills and should downsize to the correct staffing levels at the top and the bottom. The team recommended savings of CI$2.2 million, or 20 percent of current expenditure, by reducing the headcount of unskilled workers and what it described as top-heavy management. The review team found that what were referred to as “social employees” made up close to a quarter of the workforce.

The report said employing individuals whose skills, abilities and mental/physical capacity rendered them less productive and prevented them from finding equivalent work in the private sector was a major contributing factor in the department’s failure to be competitive. The review recommended that such employees are reassessed and those capable of progressing identified and trained to do more productive work within PWD, other government agencies or even the private sector.

Government has a goal to ensure that employment is as close to 100% as possible. In the past PWD has been unofficially required to employ individuals with criminal convictions, poor skill sets and those who are otherwise not able to gain employment elsewhere. Although PWD is not currently hiring such individuals, significant numbers of existing employees remain and the hidden costs of social employment fail to register the true expense to the public of meeting the goal of 100% employment.

The review team recommended that it would be more productive tointroduce a ‘back to work’ programme with better tailored opportunities for training and experience.

“Continuing to mask this activity leads to passing the cost on to PWD’s clients … unfairly fostering the perception that public works is expensive,” the report stated, adding that it was unreasonable to require PWD to continue this unofficial programme and holding them accountable on cost comparisons with the private sector.

The team also warned that employing such individuals without properly recognising their needs can lead to other higher performing employees feeling demotivated and a sense of being treated inequitably, particularly when teamed up with the socially employed.

“As a last resort these staff could be made redundant in an effort to improve efficiency, competitiveness and reduce PWD’s operating costs,” the report stated. The management at PWD agreed that social employment had a number of problems associated with it as the staff take “excessive supervision and management time”, had a significant negative impact on efficiency, quality and cost of work, motivation of other staff and a negative effect on the perception of the department.

However, the review team admitted that policy of not employing “partially productive Caymanian workers” could have a knock-on effect elsewhere as redundancies would have financial, social and political implications, but the department would benefit from a reduced headcount, less overhead costs and a more competitive cost structure.

It was not just those at the bottom of the skill pile, however, that the review team said needed to be let go. The report revealed that the PWD was also top heavy, especially as inter-agency billing had been stopped and could save around a half million a year by reducing finance, administration and human resources staff.

“Some staff could be redeployed within other agencies. Some may have to be made redundant,” the report stated. Comparing the department to the prison service, which had a similar number of employees, the report said the prison had over 86% less HR, finance and administrative personnel than PWD.

“With the end of inter-agency charging for core government, reduced number of purchases with the re-introduction of stores and more streamlined processes, PWD can sustain a significant reduction in finance/admin and HR staff with little impact to service delivery,” it said.

However, management at PWD pointed out that while the two departments are of similar size, their businesses have little or no similarity. “PWD provides services to over 70 clients at over a hundred different sites around the island, including 7-10,000 maintenance work orders and 100+ capital projects a year,” it stated, observing that the prison also uses officers in administrative roles. It did, however, acknowledge there was room to reduce the head count.

As well as cutting staff, the report said the department needed to examine its effectiveness as efficiency at PWD was significantly hampered by “ineffective processes, lack of adequate materials and stores, poor procedures, poor utilization of transportation”, as well as problems with scheduling and monitoring of work.

“These shortcomings can be addressed through redesign and better management. Observed skill sets were in some areas questionable and retraining may be a necessary,” the review team said.

The team also recommended outsourcing of some services as well as creating competition with the private sector, allowing government departments to elect a private sector firm if it offered better value for money that the PWD. “While government must maintain a level of core skills in house, several areas within PWD, particularly in the works and MEP sections are viable to competition within two years,” the report said.

However, the management team warned that with social employment and the health and pensions costs, compared to those in the private sector the PWD could never compete on a level playing field. The PWD bosses also queried how they could prevent government departments getting “unfair” quotes from illegitimate contractors.

The ministry also warned that contestability would lead to the return of inter-agency charging, which was recently discontinued because it was inefficient. “PWD are still owed in excess of $6 million spread over 6 budget years due to non-payment of inter-agency charge,” the ministry observed.

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  1. Anonymous says:

     Government jobs in Public works was originally for the men not able to go to sea.  It provided jobs and money for them.

    I can see both sides of this but I really feel that this is not the time to do this.  I agree with another poster in saying that I would rather they be working than hanging out waiting on welfare checks.  Remember "an idle mind is the devil’s workshop".  Idle mind and hands are not a good combination.  I predict a rise in crime even worse than we have now.

    I fear for these islands.  Unfortunately we are entering a dark time and I don’t think it will be called "our finest hour".  

    My family will probably leave and no we are not expats..we are Caymanians.  And I don’t work at PWD.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Make Eugene Ebanks and McKeeva Bush redundant too.  They are at retirement age. They are collecting pension, salaries and money is being wasted daily on McKeeva bills. All the CIG s doing is fattening up his family with his benefits.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A society is measured by how it treats its weakest.

    In cayman it is called christianity.

    It sincerely disgusts me.


  4. Anonymouse says:

    He that has little, shall have less, and even that shall be taken away.

    I cant believe that this is how the Government has identified ways of saving money.

    Money to encourage more lavish trips for the Premier and those others who travel with him with no visible beneficial results to date.

    Come on man, have a heart. Dont dump these people in the name of saving money. It is just not morally right.

    I would sooner see Abo waving at me as I pass him at work, than see him wondering around with a bunch of criminals who sooner or later will use him for criminal purposes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The travesty here is that over the past few decades education has taken a back seat to other issues leading us to an unemployable portion of Caymanians in the workforce. Government should be looking at why we have unemployable Caymanians and resolving that issue not creating jobs just so that they have somewhere to go. With the resources we have we should be the jewel of the Caribbean in regards to education..not the mess we have. The real issue here is we need to demand that the education system is fixed once and for all.

    • Voice of Reason says:

       Spot on. This is the truth. 

      The attitude to education has to improve though. The Cayman Islands has literacy and numeracy levels which are shameful compared to other developed countries. A large section of Caymanian children would be classed as "special needs" in most over developed jurisdictions. Much of this is not down to the calibre of the pupil but the attitude towards education. 

      If these children think they are either guaranteed a job or that their mother or father in a highly paid management role is going to look after their needs during adulthood then they should be in for a rude awakening.

      This is perhaps an indication that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of the caring maternistic view. There has to be a balance. 

      • Anonymous says:

        What we need to do everytime a commision request money for more ineffective policemen and rcip "programs"we should say NO and take the that money  into PROVEN ( and not the halfass ones we currently have!)community  and education programmes.


        • Reason says:

          Amen!  so WHY did I have to read it on CNS (thank you for reporting it) that a PRIVATE foundation had to come to the rescue to initiate a much needed literacy program?!?  

          Good on the Webster Foundation for their generosity, but the last two posts have hit the nail on the head…. The previous governments for DECADES have done nothing but position themselves to get rich while the children continued to move through the system dumb and now dumber.

          I want BIG MAC’s entire salary to go to literacy!!!

          Sorry, but leaving the unskilled workers out of jobs will only increase our crime and poverty.  This is not a good move.  A better move would be to seal up the construction sites for new schools and put the money into direct education and better teachers.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I hope they start in cayman brac!!! It is better to put them on social service than keep them at PWD. This has destroyed the work place and its operations! They don’t try to develop there skills because it is known to be that PWD. Will always have a job for them regardless of their value to the PWD work force! Those same people have the saying at PWD cayman brac “you can’t do government too bad”.

  7. My2cents says:

    Harsh as it may be to do this, it is needed. The public expect the PWD to be just as effecient as any other government department. "Social employment" simply covers up a problem. It does nothing to help these people gain new skills, learn, adapt, and ideally prosper.

    I would like to see a program to identify where these people can be helped. Be it literacy, learning a new skill, even losing weight. I also think there is scope for a seperate social employment program designed specifically to support those who need help. A light indistry of some type. In Jersey there is a government supported industry refurbishing bicycles and then re-selling them. It’s a simple thing, provides a useful service, and helps those who need it most.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In a community as small and (relatively) wealthy as Cayman it makes sense for there to be some sort of safety net in terms of basic needs.  I think the concept of social employment is a pretty good one provided it is applied fairly.  Better than putting these people on a benefit and leaving them free all day to get up to no good.

  9. IT Support says:

    Can that be applied to Private Firms too? Because I don’t know where some of these secretaries come from (both Expat and Caymanian alike), but these girls would definitely fall under the Social Employment paradigm. 


    IT Support

    • Don't assume says:

       Well said IT support.  Many firms were known to cut hard working equally qualified women in various positions.  Women who are mothers with dependents in favor of the short skirt birds from the Partners/Senior Managers home jurisdiction.

      I guess they kept the ones who provide more social benefits for the firm and their clients!  I know these hard working ladies are thankful for their social employment and fringe benefits.

      …Women everywhere ‘thank’ them for perpetuating theh

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why do people immigrate? To find Work. The only money that should be spent is one way plane ticket. Plently of work for the unskilled in the USA and UK. Ain’t no free rides bo bo

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well now we know why government was looking for more money for the poor…they are about to create a whole new batch of poor unemployed people…Would it not make more sense to keep those who are willing to work employed than to discontinue their positions with PWD and then hand out $$ from Social Services Department to them each month….not to mention the rise in crime this will cause when the people can’t find work since they are unskilled…which will in turn cost government more expenses with policing and feeding those who may end up imprisoned for the crimes they commit in order to feed their families when no one will employ them….

  12. David R. Legge says:

    I would hope the media would not automatically adopt the "politically correct" HR nomenclature of government report writers: "Social employees" and "made redundant" come to mind.

    I think the world would also be a better place if we banished the trite and pedantic term, "stakeholders." (Chief Officer Angela Martins should have been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for most use of that word in a single report.)

    On a more serious note, readers and government leaders might be interested in the work of three scholars who last month were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for their work in studying displacements in the workforce.

    Their names were Peter A. Diamond of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Dale T. Mortensen of Northwestern University; and Christopher A. Pissarides of the London School of Economics (where Cayman’s own Paul Byles was educated).

    I’ll quote just one sentence from the New York Times regarding their work: "The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long for people to find jobs, even in good economic times, and why so many people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available."

    The work of these scholars can positively inform the debate that is sure to take place in the upcoming months as Cayman begins to downsize its Civil Service, government-owned businesses, and statutory authorities.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree with reducing the size of the civil service but "social employment" is a much more complex issue than it may first appear. Any true solution will likely also be complex and multifaceted.  Merely firing people will change the nature of the problem without eliminating it. Firing people without giving them any viable lawful alternatives will likely make our communities much worse off.

    The solution will need to involve helping people acquire new skills that will equip them for the private sector. Everyone involved in these decisions should keep in mind that one aspect of "social employment" involves providing employment for those released from prison who are trying to turn their lives to something positive.  A prison record makes many private sector positions unavailable even if a person has skills. If people don’t have assistance getting marketable skills and becoming productive members of society guess what will happen. The rest of us will be much worse off than with "social employment".

  14. Anonymous says:

    I do hope before laying off the bottom Caymanian staff of the Public Works Dept and other Depts like this It should be a review of employee that have retired and are still working on contracts.  Those who retired post should be given to the younger staff.  Also persons on work permits jobs that Caymanians can hold like drivers or persons working on the roads.  I think when people reach the age and retire and receive penson they should make room for the yournger Caymanians to fill these post.  I know of persons who retired at 55 years and went on working for years Government. These things should be looked into. To me the work RETIRE means to stop working.  By the way thank God our Government have a person like Donnie Ebanks at the head.  Thank you for making these reports public.

    • Florence Goring-Nozza says:


      Dear Heavens,

      Social Employment?  How about telling the cabinet to stop all the social spending?

      You’re cutting the wrong department. Its time to cut the MLA’s pay. their  pay structure needs to be reviewed. They’re making way to much and spending way too much at a very fast pace. Again the little man is made to suffer and is the scape goat taking the fall for the squandering of this UDP government.

      The Private sector does not hire Caymanians regardless if they are low skilled or highly skilled professionals. The doors are closed to Caymanians being employed in their own country. Now the government is following suit and slamming the door in the faces of these poor people kicking them out on the streets with no jobs to feed their family, pay the kids school fees, pay bills, buy food, and pay the mortgage or rent.

      Mr. DONOVAN EBANKS, as you are aware, I’m  totally  against firing civil servants so don’t expect me to join in with those who now celebrate and love to see Caymanian civil servants thrown under the bus with no means of a livelihood.

      You seem to forget that the Cayman Islands Government  Civil service is the only entity that guarantees Caymanians a job in the 21st century. This same government is also the arm that is used to BLOCK duly qualified Caymanian professionals, middle managers, and low skilled workers from enjoying the right to  employment in their own country BECAUSE OF THE WORK PERMIT FEES SCAMS THAT CONTINUE TO HAUNT OUR SOCIETY! and for which Government is 100% responsible. It is a disgrace.

      Taking all of the facts into consideration Mr. Donovan Ebanks please explain if this is a form of punishment inflicted upon the civil servants?hat else is it, there’s no where else for them to go. Your timing is just beautiful, when the Social services or Child and Family Service is lacking funds as well. However social services should not be the ultimatum, continued employment in the civil service should be encouraged by the Governors office, and it is a crying shame and a disgrace that our people are now being forced to suffer atthe hands of our government.


  15. whodatis says:

    Although I understand the review team’s findings from a dollars and "sense" perspective – will their recommendations result in an economically positive outcome for government?

    If these individuals (low skilled / lower intellect) are cut off from the only likely source of employment / income available to them in the country – they will then simply become a (non-producing) burden on government funds – will they not?

    I appreciate that the western capitalistic framework can be a harsh one, but to believe that we can just let such individuals go without any societal repercussions is quite dangerous.

    Anyway, the cookie usually crumbles this way in times of economic downturns – those at "the bottom" are always the first ones to get burned.

    With every passing day we are witnessing the evolution of Cayman society from one of general all around stability to the typical run-of-the-mill westernized type (USA / UK / EU).

    Many of us believe that Cayman is "going to the dogs" and when viewed relative to where we are coming from this does appear to be the case. However, the reality is that we are simply becoming "normal" – in the "western" sense of things.

    Believe it or not we are still much better off than most other major western cities / nations (many may not realize this because many are ignorant to the truths of the "greater" western societies).

    However, had we a history of better and more visionary leadership (outward / international / historical) we could have truly appreciated what we once had and made provisions to repel and remove the typical cancers of all capitalistic societies.

    It is quite disheartening to see what is happening to us today. Hopefully we will manage to get things under control before too late.

  16. Anonymous says:

    There is an abundance of "social employment" in the civil service and has been for many years  and not just in PWD, Roads Authority and Fire Department. Stopping it is one thing. But what do you do with the virtually unemployable people who are laid off? The private sector will NOT take them as they have no need for unskilled workers. It’s a more delicate issue than is sometimes realised.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are absolutely right. What will happen is that these persons will turn up at the Social Services Dept. for assistance and so less savings than is thought will be realised.

    • Anonymous says:

      How can they  justify closing down jobs at PWD which are held by the poorest and most vulnerable in the community while they’re increasing salaries for the top dogs in Donnie Ebanks’ Portfolio? How can u be so cruel and heartless? "He that hath little shall have less, and even that shall be taken away".  That seems to be the mantra of this government.

      • Anonymous says:

        I completely agree.  Me thinks they should get rid of a few suits collecting enormous paychecks first.

  17. whodatis says:

    I can think of a few "socially employed" MLA’s that could use a good strong dose of redundancy.

  18. Johnston says:

    When you have people who can’t find work, PWD has always been a refuge!  Now if they close the doors on these people, you tell me, what will happen to crime?

    When one door is closed, another one should be open – don’t you think?  That is why everyone is calling for the UDP / PPM government to trim the size of government, but don’t understand, if you do so…

    You will have to find JOBS for those laid off!

    I am 100% behind the Premier in creating revenue and development on this island. Anyone who is against that, don’t know what it is like to be unemployed!  The private sector is growing more and more cruel against locals… that is a known fact.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are right of course.  But it is also right that society at large should not be footing the bill for "people who can’t find work".

      PWD also should not be "the refuge".  Because it has been its reputation is well desrved and needs to change or fail.

      The private sector is not getting more cruel against locals it is getting more picky about  things like job skills, experiance, performance, and attendance and it must to be competative.  Unfortunately many locals do not have the education or hard work ethics that are required for them to be competative. Instead of demanding work Caymanains should be demanding the type of education that would make them desireable or at least hireable.  So far Caymanain leadership has not taken any steps in that direction so your stuck with what you get.  And what you have is uneducated, unmotavated  and unhireable (in the private sector) leaders keeping you down.  Good luck changing that.

      P.S. What the Premier says and what he actually is doing is not the same thing.  Good luck with that too.

      • Anonymous says:

        "But it is also right that society at large should not be footing the bill for "people who can’t find work".

        Huh? That is precisely where you are wrong (unless they are not Caymanian/permanent residents in which case they should return home). What do you propose that they do instead – beg? steal? starve? We do have a social responsibility.

        You have a very callous attitude that reflects a lack of understanding that in every society there will be people at the margins and that govts. often act as the employer of last resort. This is not simply a ‘lazy, stupid Caymanians who can’t be bothered to get an education’ problem, but one that you will find worldwide. 

        Incidentally, it does not speak well to the quality of your education if you cannot spell "experience", "competitive", "desirable", "you’re" and "unmotivated", XXX

        • durrrr says:

          isn’t the real point that there should not be any "people who can’t find work" on this Island whatsoever? as prosperous a country as we are, there should and must be a job here for every single Caymanian living today (20-30,000 of us?), provided of course that we actually want to work.


          don’t get me wrong, I completely agree about having a social responsibility towards those that literally cannot work, whether they are physically or mentally disabled, but screw supporting those that are too lazy to work, or think that a job is below them.

          • anonymous says:

            Lets get one thing straight. Every Caymanian Wants to work as much as every X-pat wants to work in his or her own country!

            Caymanians are being betrayed daily by their own government who continues to SELL THEIR RIGHT TO AN HONEST LIVING IN EXCHANGE FOR MEGA WORK PERMIT FEES IN REVENUE.



          • Anonymous says:

            I think the point is that these persons did have work and now that will be taken away from them and there is nothing else for them. Take a look around – we are no longer the prosperous country that we were.

            There are educated Caymanians who have been actively but unsuccessfully seeking employment for many months. Even when they lower their sights they are told that they are overqualified for the job and would not be happy in it and so are not hired. Do not assume that the people who do not have a job are simply lazy or think that the available jobs are below them. Be grateful that this has not hit you – at least not yet.         

        • Anonymous says:

          Government (especially your disfunctional CIG) should not be the ones takeing care of the unhireable.  It should be FAMILY.  Mothers and fathers are THE ones who are responsible for teaching their offspring how to live life responsibly.  And if they don’t, they should be the ones who end up taking care of their failures not everyone else.

          My education was not in education( hence the bad spelling) but in hard physical labor (Carpentry and construction) and lots of it.  I started at the bottom and learned the hard way to make my own way.  I started poor and ended up not rich but I never needed a hand out.( hence my callous attitude)

          I have always taken care of any of MY family when they were in need but do not belive that I should have to take care of yours.  Caymans unhireables are YOUR  social responsibility and not the responsibility of all us that should go home. (I did)

          Incidentally it does not speak well that you, and all those like you, have not put any effort tward fixing Caymans unemployment problem and instead chose to blame me instead of those actually responsible but thats Cayman.

          • Anonymous says:

            That is a very insular, selfish and ignorant response.

            In society there is give and take. Anyone who lives here is a part of this society.

            "Incidentally it does not speak well that you, and all those like you, have not put any effort tward fixing Caymans unemployment problem and instead chose to blame me instead of those actually responsible but thats Cayman".

            Excuse me?! You know nothing about me or what I have done or not done. Where have I blamed you for Cayman’s unemployment problem?


    • anonymous says:


      How can you be behind the premier for GROWING JOBS FOR X-PATS and decreasing job opportunity for locals?

      You are contradicting yourself and your own convictions.

      You have apremier that works for x-pats not Caymanians why do you think they LOVE HIM SO MUCH?

      Wake up