Review base pay calculation - TUC urges tripartite committee

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Dr Kwabena Nyarko Otoo (right), Director, LRPI of TUC
Dr Kwabena Nyarko Otoo (right), Director, LRPI of TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said the time has come for the tripartite committee, which determines the base pay of public sector workers, to review the variables used in arriving at salary increases.

The TUC said over the years, the major determinant had been inflation, but there was the need to bring in other variables, such as the real cost of living, because the previous method did not work to the benefit of employees.

It explained that inflation was just a representation of cost of living but not the actual, hence the need to use the living cost.

Economic forum

Speaking at an Economic Forum on the 2021 mid-year budget, the Director of the Labour Policy and Research Institute of the TUC, Dr Kwabena Nyarko Otoo, said the union was working to bring in other variables, such as the real cost of living.

“Inflation is just a representation of the cost of living but not the actual cost of living. We want to include cost of living itself, as opposed to changes in the cost of living, and this places us into things such as housing.

“Inflation can show a downward trend, but rent prices will rise, so we need to open it up and bring in some of the individual cost items that significantly affect people,” he stated.

The forum was organised by the TUC with support from Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) for the leadership of the TUC at the national and sub-national levels.

The forum, which will become a regular activity, was attended by the Secretary General of the TUC, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, the Programmes Coordinator of FES, Mr Ebo Mensah, regional and district leadership of the TUC.

Productivity factor

Dr Otoo said it was a legitimate concern if the government also wanted to factor in productivity as a determinant of salary increases.

He said the issue was, however, due to the fact that nobody knew the level of productivity in the public sector, except the conjecture that the public sector was not productive.

“This is not backed by any facts and may not live up to empirical scrutiny. You have one policeman taking care of 1,000 Ghanaians, but to a very large extent there is some level of peace and stability in the country. Can you say policemen are not doing well?

“We have one nurse taking care of about 800 people, when it should be 500 or below, but to a very large extent, our health sector is not that bad. Can you say they are not being productive?” he asked rhetorically.

Dr Otoo said while there were a lot of things that could be done to improve public sector productivity, the onus was on the employer, not employees.

Review of single spine

He also called for a review of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), saying it had not been able to serve the purpose for which it was introduced.

Dr Otoo said the SSSS was introduced with clear objectives, one of which was to eventually lead to enhanced pay for people in the public sector.

He said it was also meant to address some of the inequities in the public sector salary structure and ultimately reduce bargaining centres within the public sector, but noted that all of those objectives had not materialised.

“Pay in the public sector is still very low, pay inequities are still very wide and there is an energetic attempt by some public sector entities to exit the SSSS, with some having already exited, bringing us back to the previous situation when there were multiple bargaining sectors within the public sector,” he said.

The TUC’s Director of Research said if university teachers, for instance, got the $2,000 base pay they were asking for, it would mean that everybody at their level must have that, which might be difficult to do, for which reason the obvious way out was to exit the SSSS.

He also noted that while the SSSS had the objective of bringing all public service entities to one bargaining centre, some of the entities had separate laws that incorporated them, which also defined different routes for determining their salaries.

He said some of them even wrote to the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) that the law said their wages should be determined by their governing boards, not the FWSC.

“So one of the things the SSSS failed to do was harmonise the laws on the determination of paying public sector workers,” Dr Otoo said.