City workers face the axe

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City workers face the axe

The civil servants of Seoul are in shock. Only six days after the city announced its plan to fire incompetent civil workers, it presented the timeline and the percentage of candidates who could be fired.
The city will select 270 workers, 3 percent of the entire workforce by the 15th of this month and evaluate them. In early April, the ones who receive poor evaluations will be sent to a department for monotonous field jobs, such as monitoring cars that emit too much exhaust or picking up cigarette butts on the street.
Some complain that the opinions of workers were not reflected in this plan, and it is unfair to set an exact percentage of people to hit the streets. But these conditions seem to be necessary to rule out paternalism in the process.
If the city listens to workers, the plan can lose focus or fall through. If the exact percentage is not set, supervisors will be reluctant to select people to send home, in fear of criticism from workers.
Even if a civil worker is included in the 3 percent of candidates, there are two chances to be chosen by other offices or departments. If he or she still fails to be re-employed, there is one more chance.
That is a safety catch to prevent competent people from being fired.
The workers’ union argues that the pool must be extended to the entire work force, including the most senior civil workers. The current plan includes only subordinate-level workers.
But this argument is not persuasive.
Last month, one from each of the third- and fourth-level of civil workers was transferred to a department doing simple field jobs. For the fifth level, a department and an office must at least put one person on the list of candidates to go home, naturally resulting in the number of candidates exceeding 3 percent.
What’s important is to monitor supervisors who have the right to choose who will stay and who will leave, and make sure their decisions are not based on their personal feelings or relation with workers.
There is a possibility that workers will try to build good relations with influential supervisors.
The city plans to severely punish supervisors who make decisions on these unfair grounds but it must first prepare a system to filter these cases before they actually happen. The efforts to make civil servants more alert and thus work harder should not just end up lowering workplace morale.
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