May 1st of every year – also known as May Day – marks Labour Day: a day intended to celebrate the contribution of workers to the development of the nation. But, alas, the labour front has been marked by routine strikes by diverse unions over salaries.
The single-spine salary structure, introduced in Ghana some five years ago, intending to place all public sector employees on a rational, compensation-awarding scale for salaried public sector workers, has produced more labour agitation than ever anticipated; and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, the implementing agency, is rather a beleaguered body spending much of its time around the negotiating table, at the National Labour Commission or in court!
Besides the late payments of settled claims, two major concerns of organized labour have been (1) placement and (2) relativity. By placement, a labour union is concerned that its members are being located too low on the salary scale. By relativity, a labour union is concerned that, compared with the members of another union, or in light of the job its members undertakes compared with that of another, its members are receiving less than their due.
Evidence of these twin cankers presents itself in the complaints of various other security services when the salary hikes of the police service were announced; doctors have felt they ought to be remunerated more generously than pharmacists, biomedical scientists and nurses; so too have there been contentions between lecturers and university administrators, teachers versus politicians – and numerous other agitations routinely occur.
The purpose of this contribution is to offer some proposals to determine a formula for fixing public sector salaries.
This contribution assumes that all work is important, indeed equally important. Thus the argument should not be about whose work is more valuable than whose but what one brings to carry out the functions of the job entailed. A labourer will not need more than basic education to function as such; a secretary will require specific training in office procedures, administration and secretaryship; a pharmacist will require at least a university degree and professional calling; a manager of a para-State organization will function at high gear with a master’s degree; and a university-based researcher ought to possess a doctoral degree. No one job is more important than the other but they ought to be remunerated differently because of the different entry qualifications to perform their respective duties.
Consequently, the best way to determine the relative value of different occupations is by the duration of training required to be admitted to carry of the work schedule. Thus, for example, every three year polytechnic programme is equally valuable in the public sector, be it in catering and institutional management, business studies, or engineering; and every four year university education is equally valuable in the public sector be it in education, languages, sociology, land economy or pharmacy.
Added to the assumption of equal importance of all public sector work is a second assumption, to wit: experience at doing what one has to do matters. A more experienced worker spends less time on a specific assignment, makes fewer mistakes, and makes fewer costly mistakes. Experience translates into greater efficiency and increased confidence. Relevant experience is therefore a relevant factor in determining the level of compensation one receives for the job.
Basic education and adult labour are Constitutional imperatives; therefore, no one should be employed in the public sector if not at least 18 years old and with a certificate verifying the successful completion of basic education. Most public servants retire at 60 years; Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and those similarly ranked, are to retire at 70. Given educational requirements and retirement ages, it is being assumed here that no person shall be employed in the public sector for a period longer than 40 years. Even if one were, it would not be a couple of years more. For each job, therefore, the maximum experience to be credited for which provision should be made is 40 years. The assumption is that a person freshly qualified and employed has 0% experience factor and one with 40 years experience has 100% experience factor.
The final assumption made is that organisations are hierarchical and pyramidal. There is somebody at the apex who issues instructions and oversees activities, people at the base doing their various jobs, and people in between performing managerial functions. Up to a 10-point hierarchy is reasonable for organizations for each category of employment. For example:
– Chief Executive, Deputy Chief, Divisional Head, Regional Head, District Head, Section Head, Unit Head, Unit worker (8 points)
– Rector, Vice Rector, Provost, Dean, Vice-Dean, Head of Department, Lecturer (7 points)
– Pope, Cardinal, Archbishop, Bishop, Head of Parish, Parish Priest (6 points)
Up to a 10-point hierarchy is applicable to every job category in every organization, whether the military, security or intelligence service, a business establishment, revenue collection agency, professional service provider, or bureaucracy. Salaries of office holders may be factored accordingly.
Only three considerations should determine the salaries of public sector workers, namely: (1) qualification; (2) relevant working experience; and (3) office holding.
The Constitution ranks citizens in order of pre-eminence as follows: President, Vice-President, Speaker and Chief Justice. The President should receive the highest pay from the public purse, and all other pay levels should be in reference to the lowest paid public sector worker being the just-employed, fresh basic school graduate. With the salaries pegged for the highest and lowest levels, other public sector workers should have their remuneration pegged with the built-in relativities determined by entry qualifications for the following scale:
– Level 1 Basic education
– Level 2 Secondary education
– Level 3 Post-secondary certificate
– Level 4 Post-secondary diploma
– Level 5 Tertiary certificate
– Level 6 Tertiary diploma or professional calling without degree
– Level 7 Bachelor’s degree (up to 4 years)
– Level 8 Bachelor’s degree (up to 4 years) with professional calling
– Level 9 Bachelor’s degree (5 to 8 years)
– Level 10 Bachelor’s degree (5 to 8 years) with professional calling
– Level 11 Fellowship in a professional calling
– Level 12 Post-graduate certificate
– Level 13 Post-graduate diploma
– Level 14 Master’s degree
– Level 15 Doctorate degree
Once the entry level is fixed for any category of public sector employee, an annual increment should be payable to reflect experience acquired over the last year. On the earlier-stated assumption that the new entrant at any level has the least (0%) experience factor and one with 40 years the most (100%) experience factor, this translates to an addition of 2.5% of the basic salary for a particular level after each completed year of satisfactory service. To compensate for inflation, the 2.5% should be additional to the rate of inflation. If therefore a labourer is freshly employed after basic school and is paid 100 cedis a month, and if the rate of inflation for the year is 10%, then after one year’s satisfactory service, the labourer should be paid 112.5 cedis.
The final proposal is to factor office holding into compensation. Up to a 10-point hierarchy is recommended.
Ghana’s state of development requires a hardworking, suitably qualified, and well motivated public sector. The discussion should not centre on whether the policewoman is more or less important than the polytechnic lecturer, physician, dentist, quantity surveyor, social worker, hydrologist or demographer. The discussion should proceed on the assumption that all public sector workers are important – indeed equally important, and that remuneration should thus be based only on three factor, namely (1) educational and/or professional qualification, (2) experience and (3) office holding.
It is hoped that the above formula will rationalize public sector remuneration and reduce, if not altogether halt, labour agitation. It is further hoped that the Public Services Commission, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, and the National Labour Commission, and the various labour unions will find this contribution helpful in some way. The case is being made here for qualification, experience and office-holding to be the exclusive considerations in determining public sector salaries.
By Prof. P.E. Bondzi-Simpson
Founding Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Coast
Former Dean, School of Business, University of Cape Coast