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Public Administration to Become Compatible With EU Standards
Source: Today's Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-220351-106-public-administration-to-become-compatible-with-eu-standards.html
Source Date: Sunday, August 29, 2010
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government, Institution and HR Management
Country: Turkey
Created: Aug 31, 2010

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has decided to implement the Public Personnel Reform, which it has been working on since 2003 to bring Turkey’s public administration up to par with European Union standards.

The bill, which includes the amendments that need to be made to the Civil Servants Law as part of the EU harmonization process, will have a significant impact on civil servants.

The draft reform, which Labor and Social Security Minister Ömer Dinçer has been working on since 2004, has been delayed for six years due to resistance from the opposition and labor unions. Speaking on public personnel reform last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on labor unions to end the disparities between the status of civil servants and workers. Erdoğan, who wants everyone in the public sector to be considered a “public employee” instead of being categorized as either a worker or civil servant.

Erdoğan also suggested giving employees the right to strike like before 1980. However, the civil servants’ union immediately protested, claiming the proposed changes would impact the job security of civil servants.

During negotiations with the EU, the Turkish government had pledged to introduce new regulations on the rights of civil servants to job security by 2013. The EU wants job security to be removed, like in EU member countries, on the grounds that job security conflicts with the free market mechanism.

According to current laws, while workers who are given civil servant status have “job security,” which prevents them from being dismissed, workers without that status are granted certain rights but can be dismissed. However, civil servants do not have the right to collective bargaining or strikes, while workers do. If the referendum on Sept. 12 is in the affirmative, the right to “collective consultative talks,” which are not binding will be changed to the right to “collective bargaining.”

The first step has been taken

While labor unions are continuing to debate the idea of removing inequalities between workers and civil servants, the government sent a law to the Turkish Parliament in late June, taking the first step to implement a portion of the reform in public administration. The bill, which includes the amendments that need to be made to the Civil Servants Law as part of the EU harmonization process, will have a significant impact on civil servants.

While the government has yet to convince unions to accept the proposal to end the distinction between workers and civil servants, the law removes the discrepancy between retired civil servants and retired workers and tradesmen. If the changes are approved on Sept. 12, retired people will be granted the right to collective bargaining, marking the implementation of the reform’s section that concerns retired public workers and civil servants.

One of the first bills that Parliament will discuss when it begins legislative work in October is the reform-like changes to the Civil Servants Law.

The chance to switch from private to public sector

The bill, which closely concerns approximately 1.7 million civil servants comprising 62 percent of all public employees, allows talented and qualified people in the public sector to be moved to senior-level positions so as to improve the performance of public administration. The term “public service” in the law, which prevents experts in the private sector from working in the public sector, is being changed.

Pregnant and nursing women employees are to be provided special protection under the new bill. From the 24th week of their pregnancy to one year after birth, or according to the doctor’s recommendation, pregnant and nursing mothers will not be required to work night shifts.

The bill also foresees allowing women employees to take unpaid maternity leave for up to 24 months after birth to care for the child. In cases where the mother can not use this, fathers who are public employees will be granted the right to take unpaid leave for up to 24 months as well. Under the current laws, male civil servants are only allowed three days paid paternity leave. If the bill passes, this will increase to 10 days.

The law on child support, which is limited to two children, will become permanent with the bill. The bill requires employers to give up to three months of unpaid leave to public employees to take care of someone he is responsible for their next of kin if they have been in a serious accident or suffers a serious illness and whose life will be in danger if the employee does not attend to him.

During collective talks with labor unions, the government agreed to increase the subsistence money from TL 500 to TL 750. The bill will provide a legal basis for this agreement. Subsistence will be 50 percent higher for retired civil servants.

Contract personnel who work at state economic enterprises will also be granted the right to become a member of labor unions. Under current legislation, these workers are not allowed to become members of labor unions. If the amendments are approved in the referendum, public employees will be able to take legal recourse regarding disciplinary action that has been taken against them. The government has included this right in the Civil Servant Law as well. If the bill is approved, public employees will only appeal to the disciplinary board for warnings and reprimands that have been issued.

Public employees who attack citizens will be fired

Moreover, there will be stricter penalties for those who mistreat citizens. Public employees who physically attack citizens will be dismissed. This is the first such measure being taken in the 86 years of the history of the republic.

After the changes to the Civil Servants Law, the government will start implementing the remaining parts of the reform in early 2011. Additionally, ever since it came to power in 2003, the AK Party has wanted senior-level bureaucrats to come and go with the ruling party, like in Western countries.
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