Here's today's RG column. Somehow the beginning of the 2nd paragraph got changed up in the Gazette print version (maybe to fit in Dr. Brown's photo) and is even more jumbled in the online version, plus I missed a typo (grrr) in the last sentence. I've corrected both of these in this post.
RG Opinion (May 19, 2004)
A case of different strokes
Government has generated some great ideas and lots of controversy recently. Some of these proposals are so good that Cabinet should implement these internally, increasing their accountability and filling their glaringly empty legislative plate. Three recent examples spring to mind.
We’re all exhausted with the never-ending battle between Dr. Brown and the taxi industry. In case you’ve missed the debacle while waiting for a cab, the Transport Minister insists that GPS be installed in all cabs while the industry maintains that it is an intrusion on their privacy, is costly and won’t improve service.
This whole dispute would be mercifully resolved if Cabinet set a precedent by enthusiastically installing GPS in their oversized fleet of GP cars. Our Ministers often claim that they work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore they should be more than happy to justify this claim and publish the whereabouts of their vehicles on a regular basis. After all, they’re representing the taxpayers in cars we purchased.
It would also be particularly useful (and revealing) if TCD maintained an internet site with live updates of the locations of our MPs vehicles, so we could see them shuttling from important meeting to important meeting of course. Chances are that this would prove unnecessary. Most of the supersized Peugeot’s can usually be found guarding their prestigious ‘Reserved for GPs 1-20’ parking spots at the airport.
The taxi industry would be in a far weaker negotiating position, and Dr. Brown in a stronger one, if he could proudly point to his GPS monitored car during negotiations.
Performance Based Pay Raises
Here we find ourselves with another great idea floated on the taxi drivers and another opportunity for Cabinet to lead the way: rate increases tied to improved performance.
Dr. Brown’s bargaining position with the taxi industry would be enhanced even further if our MPs were compensated in this manner, not quietly decreeing pay raises for themselves deep in the 2004 Budget. It’s much easier when you evaluate your own performance and give yourself a raise. Different strokes for different folks it seems.
Applying this performance based principle to the 2003 election where the PLP won fewer seats and a reduced share of the vote would see the Government MPs take a pay cut while the UBP MPs would pick up a few extra dollars.
The PLP’s performance was judged poorly then and the latest polls show the Premier’s approval rating in decline. That’s a poor performance review. A pay-cut would seem more than appropriate, based on Dr. Brown’s taxi proposal that is.
The Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) is up in arms over Government’s suggestion that their compensation be pro-rated (scaled down) to reflect the approximately 200 days spent in school, versus the approximately 240 days of work for their civil servant counterparts.
If Cabinet feels that fewer days in the office should result in less pay then the taxpayers will be receiving a refund any day now after the recent period of legislative inactivity. Parliament recently reconvened after a seven week Easter adjournment, for one arduous session, before adjourning for another two weeks, due to a lack of Government business. Now there’s a work schedule we’d all like.
It’s only fair then that our MP’s salaries should likewise be pro-rated to reflect the reduced time they’re spending legislating. It probably isn’t fair to cut the paychecks of both sides, the UBP has 6 motions pending compared with none for the Government. I’m sure the Opposition will enthusiastically support the redistribution of PLP salaries their way.
Cabinet will undoubtedly argue that they spend considerable time working outside of Parliament and are in fact underpaid. Bermuda’s teachers might have been supportive of this argument, before Minister Lister’s proposal to pro-rate their pay that is. The Union negotiators will surely have pointed out the additional hours its members spend working outside of the classroom, but that won’t curry much favour in Cabinet it seems.
It’s only fair then that we apply the same principle of time spent in the classroom to time spent in the Legislature.
I wouldn’t hold your breath for Cabinet to lead by example, but it’s worth asking.