Sheldon a former public sector worker in the UK writes …

Hi Mish,

I used to work in the UK public sector as agency contractor in the planning department. I can tell you that this article is mostly on the money on how public sector workers are literally wasting tax payer’s money: sitting idle.

Take care,

Sheldon

The article Sheldon referred to is The Great Inertia Sector: A whistleblower’s account of council work where staff pull six-month sickies

In his emergency Budget this week, Chancellor George Osborne announced he was cutting public sector expenditure by 25 per cent. Unions have declared the cuts irresponsible. But are they? Here, one employee for a large inner London authority lifts the lid on the culture of inertia and incompetence at his workplace.

The Mail knows the true identity of the man – a graduate who has been a planning officer for eight years. But to protect his job, he is writing under an assumed name.

Monday morning, it’s 10am and I’m late for work – but there’s no point hurrying because even though I should have been at my desk 30 minutes ago, I know I’ll be the first to arrive at the office.

Sure enough, the planning department is a ghost town.
Our department has 60 employees and – until last Tuesday – a budget of £22million.

I’ve been there for two years and in that period the only time I’ve ever seen every employee present and correct was at the Christmas party.

At least ten people will be off sick on any one day. The departmental record holder is Doreen – she has worked a grand total of eight days in 14 months.

Doreen must be the unluckiest woman in the country.

In the past year and a half she claims she has: fallen victim to frostbite; been hit by a car; and accidentally set herself on fire.

But she’s really pulled out all the stops with her latest excuse: witchcraft. That’s right, Doreen believes somebody in Nigeria has cast a spell on her and that it would be unprofessional of her to attempt to do the job she is paid £56k a year for while under the influence of the spell.

She has already been off for four months on full pay. I’ve no idea how long this spell lasts, but my guessing would be six months to the day – the exact amount of time council employees can take off on full pay before their money is reduced.

Of course they have to provide sick-notes from a doctor, but as you can buy fake ones online for £10 it’s never proved a problem.

There are procedures in place to address attendance, but nobody ever follows them through – chances are the person whose job it is to monitor sickness is probably signed off himself.

I’ve been told by colleagues that I don’t take enough sick leave – when I protest that it is because I’m in good health they look confused. What’s that got to do with anything?

Jerry is 63 and two years from retirement. He is what is known in the civil service and local government as an ‘untouchable’ – he’s been at the council for more than 40 years, does no work, but would cost an absolute fortune to get rid of.

So he’s left alone to play online poker, Skype his daughter in Florida and take his two-hour daily snooze at his desk, no doubt dreaming of the day when his gold-plated public sector pension will kick in.

When I first started here at the council, I tried to pass these messages on to the right department, but eventually gave up – nobody answers phones, nobody listens to voicemails, and emails go unread.

There’s no point showing any initiative. I once wandered down to the ‘Streetcare’ department to ask why the hell nobody was answering the phone.

But only two staff had turned up that day and they were both in the prayer room. Yes, you read that correctly, all large council offices now provide prayer rooms, primarily for their Muslim employees whose faith requires them to perform devotional prayers at midday, in the afternoon and at sunset.

Of course, when I tell my friends in the private sector about my working conditions, they can scarcely believe it. As the recession bites, they consider themselves lucky to be holding on to their jobs, and are willing to work extra hours or take a pay freeze to ensure their firm’s survival.

In the public sector, though, there is no competitive edge; no incentive to cuts costs or improve efficiency. Few genuinely fear for their job security, protected as they are by threats of union action every time the axe looks likely to fall.

It’s the same story across the world: when a nation’s public sector is allowed to expand into a bloated behemoth, it is almost impossible to cut it down to size, still less to change the culture of waste and laziness that sets in.

I don’t know what the solution is. Even those, like myself, who join with the best of intentions are soon worn down and end up subscribing to the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ school of thought.

Of course the real scandal is it’s your money that’s paying for the jollies, the prayer rooms and the never- ending workshops.

In my authority’s borough, the average householder pays £1,330 a year in council tax. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to know that they’re funding Jerry’s internet gambling and Doreen’s never-ending sick pay.

Good luck Mr Osborne – you’re going to need it.

There are many more examples in the article so it is worth a closer look. No doubt public unions in the US deny this kind of thing happens here, but it does. Department of Energy employees have said essentially the same thing.

Regardless, union control is so strong there is no way to do anything about these problems when they do crop up. The key point however is “In the public sector, though, there is no competitive edge; no incentive to cuts costs or improve efficiency.”

Indeed there is every incentive to NOT cuts costs or improve efficiency. That is because the union rakes in more union dues the more public workers there are. Managerial pay is based on how many employees a manager has rather than how much work actually gets done.

The ultimate solution is to abolish all public unions and fire every public worker. Any work that genuinely needs to be done can be handled by the private sector in a competitive bidding process.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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