Government nonplussed by MPs demands on unified pay scale

Lawmakers in parliament unanimously urged the government to remove the salary disparities that currently exist among employees working at the same level in different government ministries. But, in the same united voice, they also warned the government against any attempts to touch the salaries of citizens when it introduces the long-awaited unified pay scale structure for employees in the public sector. In addition, they red-lined some sectors such as oil and the National Guard, where they demanded that salaries should not be tampered with.

Similarly, while the MPs were in agreement on the need to immediately introduce the government’s revamped strategic payroll alternative, they were also equally clear that the payroll structure had to be first sent to an expert committee for review and evaluation.

It will be remembered that a couple of years ago the government had, as part of its reform moves, submitted a new pay structure for employees in the public sector. But then had to withdraw it in the face of strong opposition from lawmakers, who said it did not achieve equality among employees in various sectors and that it took away the benefits from some. Now the government stands accused of delaying the introduction of a pay structure that provides equality for all employees.

The strategic payroll alternative, as the new pay scale that the government hopes to introduce is referred to, should be accepted and approved quickly, said MP Majed Al-Mutairi. He said that the pay structure should be based on a scientific and comprehensive study and that it must be first reviewed specialists. He also warned against taking away any benefits currently enjoyed by employees and that the new pay scale must not be applied to vital sectors like the oil sector and the national guards, adding that attempts to reduce benefits to such sectors will not be accepted.

For his part, MP Saleh Ashour accused the government of indulging in a blame game and blamed it for delaying the new pay structure. He pointed out that it was the government which withdrew the earlier draft it had submitted to the Assembly, adding the government now puts the blame on the Assembly. He said the new pay scale, if implemented correctly, will have important positive results among government employees, as under the scheme, the employee will get the same salary and benefits regardless of the place of appointment in any government department.

Saying that the proposed pay scale will be difficult to implement under the current employment policy, MP Khalil Al-Saleh said he will reject any cuts to the wages and benefits of Kuwaitis. He said the existing gap between government employees despite having similar qualifications is the cause of social and financial disparity among employees. The lawmaker however ruled out the possibility of approving the pay scale in the coming term, because it may not be very popular, especially with elections around the corner.