Warsaw, 18th August 2020
Appeal of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers
regarding the pay rises of persons holding public office
The Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers believes that increasing the salaries of persons performing public functions serves the public interest. The imbalance between the remuneration received and the scale of responsibility is particularly visible in the case of deputy ministers. With this in mind, we appeal to the members of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (Parliament’s lower house) not to succumb to populist pressure and to reject the veto of the Senate (Parliament’s upper house) regarding the draft act increasing the salaries of people holding public office, and then to immediately amend that act, correcting some of the errors within. Above all else, we draw attention to the need to clearly link the salaries of politicians with the average salary in the national economy, to withdraw from the increase in subsidies for political parties, and to adopt an even greater salary increase for the most important people in the country, i.e. the President and the Prime Minister.
There is no doubt that all of us should care about high-quality public services. One of the basic instruments to achieve the goals of public or private organisations is to have appropriate, competent staff with knowledge, skills, and experience.
Independent market data and expert opinions indicate two phenomena. First, there is a pay gap in the salaries of senior public officials relative to senior management and experts in the private sector. Secondly, the scale of responsibility and the significance of decisions made, the complexity of tasks, the scope of management, the necessary experience, knowledge or the need to ensure financial independence, situate the positions of high officials in the public sector above the level of top managers and experts in the private sector. To sum up, despite the higher importance of positions, people employed in public administration earn several times less than managers in large companies.
The above phenomenon leads to a negative selection of staff in the broadly understood public sector. The low level of remuneration for public sector employees makes it difficult in the long term to keep people with adequate or above-expectations competencies in this sector. Taking the aforementioned into account, it is necessary to ensure such a level of their remuneration that will keep these people working in public administration.
Moreover, the current situation is actually disrupting the natural separation of powers due to the increasingly frequent phenomenon of combining the functions of members of the Council of Ministers and secretaries of state with the function of a member of the parliament. This way, the salary combined from the function performed is supplemented by the remuneration obtained as MP. There is no doubt that this is not a desirable condition – increasing salaries for ministers and deputy ministers would allow limiting (if not completely eliminating) this practice.
At the same time, elective officials should also have a sustained level of remuneration that allows them to maintain their current and future financial independence from decisions made in the exercise of power. We would like to emphasise that the amount earmarked for pay rises for persons performing public functions in the state would be marginal from the point of view of the state budget. Concurrently, it would be an investment in the quality of the administration.
However, the introduced salary increases cannot be the only tool and effect of the amendment. The reform of the wage policy in the public sector should be a reform of the entire remuneration system.
As part of the necessary changes, we postulate to:
- restore the level of an MP’s salary to the level prior to its 2018 reduction,
- increase the remuneration of persons indicated in the draft act amending certain acts on remuneration of persons holding public office and amending the act on political parties (Druk/Print 551) to a level directly dependent on the national average,
- introduce a system of supervision over money spent within public budgets and create instruments conducive to the efficiency of their spending,
- limit the number of officials in both senior and junior positions.
In the context of the last postulate, low efficiency of activities is noticeable in relation to the scale of employment in public administration. It is a common phenomenon in every democratic system. So is the growth of bureaucracy, which was already noticed at the dawn of modern systems of public administration. Considering the above, the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers recommends a significant reduction in the number of jobs in the Polish public sector. The first review should be performed after the COVID-19 crisis, and the consequent ones be carried out periodically, e.g. every 4 years. At the same time, the Union is of the opinion that along with the decrease in the level of employment, the salary budget in the public sector should be maintained, so that within the available funds, it is possible to grant an increase in the level of salaries to rank-and-file officials kept in the sector.
Simultaneously, the Union is critical of plans to increase the level of subsidies for political parties which was included in the draft act amending certain acts on remuneration of persons holding public office and amending the act on political parties (Druk/Print 551). Apart from general doubts as to the legitimacy of financing political parties from the budget, the resources at their disposal at the moment seem to be completely sufficient.
We would like to note that there is an argument among the critics of the plans to raise the salaries of persons holding public functions in terms of the wrong timing of the introduction of the change (the COVID-19 crisis). We wish to stress that there never is and will never be a good time to introduce changes of the proposed nature. When a few years ago, the government awarded prizes to high officials during an economic boom, populist slogans about limiting wages in the public sector were as omnipresent as they are today.
We call for a long-term perspective of decision-makers’ thinking about the quality of public administration and to not succumb to populist tendencies in this area.