President Abdulla Yameen has returned the state wage policy bill back to the People’s Majlis for reconsideration after expressing concern over the inclusion of some public companies and parliamentary oversight.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that the inclusion of public companies with more than fifty percent shares would create difficulties as these are separate legal entities which would subsequently have an outside authority setting wages.
The other key issue related Article 18 of the bill which states that all decisions of the pay commission regarding the setting of wages and formulating wage policies must be approved by parliament.
“The president does not believe the commission would be an implementation authority if the People’s Majlis is to approve its decisions,” said Muaz, noting that it would create difficulties in implementing the Pay Commission’s decisions.
Majlis economic committee member, Kelaa MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom, told Minivan News the bill was being delayed mainly due to a conflict between the two branches of the government, arguing that the Majlis ought to have final say on pay awards as representatives of the people.
The bill which was passed on April 27 had been returned twice by the previous President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
It aims to resolve public sector pay discrepancies through the creation of a National Pay Commission and was first proposed by Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed in March 2011, and was passed by the Majlis in December 2012 and again in April 2013.
In a letter sent to the speaker of the majlis, President Yameen has requested that points noted by the government be considered.
According to Muaz, further issues emerging from the bill are that it essentially hands over the authority to decide salaries of all institutions, including president’s staff and security forces, which are currently under the executive according to the constitution and laws.
He described the parliament’s deciding upon all changes to salaries and benefits of state employees as “People’s Majlis infringing on the executive’s responsibilities”.
The constitution is clear on the parliament’s roles in allocating salaries independent institutions, continued Muaz, and the parliament’s role when it comes to the wages of other state employees – not specifically stated in the constitution – should be limited to formulating policies on the matter and holding other relevant stakeholders accountable.
President Waheed had previously told the Majlis that the requirement for parliament approval of commission decisions “dissolves the separated boundaries of, and would present difficulties in carrying out the functions of, the state – particularly in carrying out the duties of the executive”.
In response, the economic committee of the Majlis which reviewed the bill said “the best way to maintain checks and balances” is keeping the bill as it is, instead of leaving the power of determining the wages under the total control of the executive.
“People’s Majlis has the largest number of people’s representatives and should be viewed as the people. [In the bill] all the decisions are made by the [Pay] commission and it is only sent to the parliament to see if the people approve of it,” said Dr Mausoom.
When asked if the issue could take another turn with the newly elected parliament, Dr Mausoom said that he believed the new members of the parliament would make a responsible decision.
The ruling Progressive Coalition currently maintains a parliamentary majority and has won a ‘super-majority’ of two-thirds in the newly elected parliament.
The government is currently under pressure from workers over pay discrepancies and minimum wage, with both civil servants and teachers considering strike action in recent weeks.
Meanwhile President Yameen yesterday ratified five bills passed along with State wage bill at the eighth sitting of Majlis’ first Session, on 27 April 2014.
The five bills which were ratified are the sole proprietorship bill, business registration bill, the fourth amendment to the Maldives Land Act, the sexual harassment bill, and the sexual offences bill.