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18.05.2007 General News

TUC boss hails pay reforms

The Head of Policy and Research of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, has welcomed the ongoing pay reforms as a positive step to addressing the perennial agitation for salary increases.

"I know that this time round the government is serious about what it is doing. The approach that has been used in the past has failed but I can foresee a good thing coming out of these reforms," he indicated.

Dr Baah also lauded the establishment of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, saying that was the first time the nation had set up an institution that reflected the law.

He made the remarks in Accra on Wednesday at the 10th in the series of the Public Services Commission (PSC) Annual Lecture which he jointly delivered with Dr Anthony Komla Tsekpo, a budget expert with the Canadian Parliamentary Centre and former Research Fellow at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana.

The theme for the lecture was, "Reforming the Public Service for efficient service delivery: The role of pay and compensation", but the two speakers focused on the topic, "The single-spine compensation salary structure: An incomes policy to achieve equity, productivity and excellence".

This is the second time the theme has been discussed at the decade-old lecture, after Prof. Bartholomew K. Armah had dealt with it on the same platform in 2003, and according to the organisers, that signified the importance they attached to the "burning subject".

Dr Baah was hopeful that the current reforms would address the ad hoc measures adopted by the government to address workers' agitation for increases in wages and salaries.

He said such ad hoc measures and the situation where different agencies determined their own pay suggested that the government was not in control of the administration of public sector pay, which he described as very poor.

"The current situation is that the share of public sector pay keeps increasing but public sector workers are not satisfied with their pay," he observed.

Dr Baah conceded that there had been significant increases in the national daily minimum wage, which has more than doubled from $321 per annum in 1984 to $672 per annum in 2007.

He, however, noted that the $672 was higher than the $500 GDP per capita for the nation but it was nevertheless far lower than the $1,200 GDP per worker.

On salary inequity, Dr Baah said although health workers, for instance, had received substantial increases in salary over the years, they were still agitating for more because majority of them felt that they had not been treated fairly, compared to other professionals in the health sector.

He said other public sector workers were waiting patiently for their turn and expressed the hope that the current pay reforms would address the issue satisfactorily.

He said the single-spine comprehensive pay structure was easier to implement and administer, was more consistent, more transparent, and avoided overlaps, although he reckoned that it was a difficult policy to address issues of market premium.

In his presentation, Dr Tsekpo observed that at the current level of remuneration, the Civil Service was losing highly qualified personnel to the private sector.

He said the problems associated with jobs, wages, equity and productivity were due to lack of information on the interaction of market forces, adding that institutions such as the Labour Statistics Unit of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the Labour Department were dead as far as such information was concerned.

Dr Tsekpo said it appeared there was more talk than action on the issue of public sector productivity, pointing out that while employers insisted on increased productivity first before pay increase, labour pressed on pay increase before increased productivity, without the two parties taking concrete action on the issue.

The Minister of Public Sector Reforms, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, who was a special guest of honour, said without an effective public service, the quest to move the nation forward would not be achieved.

He underlined the importance of distributing the nation's resources equitably, stressing that the current pay reforms were key to making the public service regain its recognition and increase productivity.

Dr Nduom said the ongoing job evaluation and classification exercise involving more than 1,500 jobs in the public sector, with an estimated 8,000 job holders providing information, had been a very painful exercise because many people were not well resourced and educated as they should be.

According to him, that exercise was expected to be completed by the end of August 2007 to ensure that public service workers were placed on a single-spine pay structure.

Dr Nduom said some time last year when the government placed its workers along a single-pay scale, it found gross inequity because some people were earning salaries that could not be justified as a result of unilateral pay increases over the years.

"This is what we are trying to do away with and it requires discipline on the part of the government to say we will no longer engage in that form of practice, and on the part of government employees to say that they will not seek pay increases out of term but submit themselves to the process that has been put in place," he said.

The Minister of Manpower Development, Youth and Employment, Alhaji Saddique Boniface, who was also a special guest of honour, said the time had come to break the jinx of the protracted labour atmosphere and move the nation forward.

He said the public sector was capable of efficient service delivery if it was adequately motivated.

The Resident Director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), Ms Kathrin Meissner, said it was important for the government to provide conditions which would encourage civil servants to put in their best.

Source: Daily Graphic