Hong Kong civil servants defy allegiance oath; US Department of Homeland Security making ‘significant’ discipline reforms; Zimbabwean officials reject 100% pay rise: management & workforce news in brief

By on 23/06/2022 | Updated on 23/06/2022
Officials stand next to the Chinese and Hong Kong flags in Hong Kong.
The 129 Hong Kong officials who failed to take the oath without reasonable explanation had left their jobs by the end of last year, it has been revealed. Photo by Ant & Carrie Coleman via Flickr

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed

Hong Kong civil servants sacked or quit after refusing to take allegiance oath

A total of 129 Hong Kong civil servants and 535 other government workers have been sacked or resigned after failing to take a newly-introduced oath of allegiance to the government, an official has revealed.

The figures were revealed last week by the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs Erick Tsang, in response to a written inquiry by lawmaker Jeffrey Lam.

It was announced in July 2020 that civil servants would be required to make a declaration to uphold the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

A report from the meeting at which the requirement was agreed, said making the declaration “enables civil servants to have clearer awareness of the responsibilities and requirements entailed by their official positions, thereby further safeguarding and promoting the core values that must be upheld by civil servants, and ensuring in turn the effective governance of the HKSAR government”.

Tsang said that the 129 who failed to take the oath without reasonable explanation had left their jobs by the end of last year. Some resigned, while others were dismissed due to misconduct, were ordered to retire, or had their probation terminated. He said that about 180,000 serving civil servants had signed the declaration.  

News of the requirement followed the introduction by China of the controversial National Security Law, which reduces Hong Kong’s judicial autonomy and makes it easier to punish demonstrators and activists.

Read more: Pro-Beijing security chief to be Hong Kong’s next leader

US Department of Homeland Security making ‘significant reforms’ to employee discipline process

The US Department of Homeland Security is reforming its employee discipline processes, following an allegation that 10,000 complaints of sexual assault and harassment filed with the department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) were delayed or suppressed.  

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a public interest watchdog, alleged in April that, based on an unpublished OIG report, more than 10,000 employees at law enforcement components of the DHS – more than a third of the workforce – said they had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. In the US federal government, inspectors general and their teams act as an accountability division tasked with preventing inefficient or unlawful operations at the department they oversee.

Following POGO’s claim, DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered a 45-day review of employee accountability processes.

“Based on the results of that review, I have directed the department to implement significant reforms to our employee misconduct discipline processes, including centralising the decision-making process for disciplinary actions and overhauling agency policies regarding disciplinary penalties,” Mayorkas said.

He added: “Centralising disciplinary processes will ensure that allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors, at each DHS component agency. Reforming our policies regarding disciplinary penalties, including by providing more specific guidance, will promote accountability and ensure consequences are consistent and appropriate based on the severity of the misconduct.” 

Mayorkas said work is already underway.

The DHS’s inspector general Joseph Cuffari has contested POGO’s findings.

Zimbabwean public servants turn down 100% pay rise

Government workers in Zimbabwe have “flatly rejected” the state’s offer to double their pay, according to the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions.

The confederation had demanded that the lowest paid civil servant get US$840 a month, compared with the US$53 they currently get, or alternatively that they be paid a mixture of US dollars and the local currency.

The demands come amid surging inflation in the southern African nation – which rocketed by 132% last month and almost tripled food prices.

Speaking on local news and entertainment channel ZTN Prime last week, public service, labour and social welfare minister Paul Mavima confirmed that the government’s pay rise had been rejected, and that it was considering whether to improve its offer. However, he added that officials should be realistic in their demands as the government has other obligations besides the wage bill.

Canada rules out wage reimbursement for unvaccinated public servants placed on leave during COVID-19

Canada’s federal government will not reimburse unvaccinated public servants who were placed on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the country’s vaccine mandate, the intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc has said.

The minister’s statement came shortly after the government said it would end rules requiring federal staff to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to be able to work. Those rules came into effect in October 2021 and ended on 20 June, meaning unvaccinated staff placed on unpaid leave since November can now return to work.

Several unions – including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees – have demanded that unvaccinated employees be reimbursed for wages lost during periods of enforced leave. However, LeBlanc said the government would “absolutely not” reimburse unvaccinated public servants.

Just over 2,000 federal employees – less than 2% of the total workforce – were on administrative leave without pay as of 30 May this year, according to the government.

Read in full: Canada rules out wage reimbursement for unvaccinated public servants placed on leave during COVID-19

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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