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2010: The Anointed Year Of Single Spine

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 Source: GNA

A GNA feature by Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah

Accra, Jan. 17, GNA - AD 2010 is the anointed year of single spine in which the average Ghanaian public worker seeks to wrest power and authority from the humiliating jaws of financial anaemia.

It is the appointed year of the labour front to resolve to make poverty and deprivation spineless; a year of big dreams and big talk about money. Benjamin Alure, a Civil Servant, who is counting 24 months to retire from active service, had resolved to renew his marriage vows in July when the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) is implemented and fulfil his cherished dream of riding a VW Passat salon car before his exit from the earthly plane to the land of his ancestors.

Indeed the Ghanaian worker is dreaming very big and nobody can be arrested for translating facts, myths and figures into great joy or disappointment. Those who will get the policy right will be empowered to day dream with a spice of caution and not to "count their chickens before they are hatched".

The age-long talk about improving the lot of the Ghanaian worker has been on the drawing board since 1967, when the Mills Odoi's Commission was established to reform the Public Service for improved pay and conditions of service.

The Administration of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings caught the 'cold' in 1996 when he engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to come out with the Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS).

According to the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), GUSS was the most recent attempt and the first comprehensive pay reform in the country to address salary inequities within the Public Service. The GUSS initially covered only the Civil Service, Judiciary Service, Education Service and nurses with the eventual aim of covering all public service institutions.

The structure could not achieve the universal salary objectives since some Public Service workers were allowed to opt out of it. Also the Central Management Board and Appellate Body set up to manage the implementation of GUSS were not backed by any legal instrument and not adequately resourced. Consequently disparities in pay and grading continued to prevail in the Public Sector.

Former President John Agyekum Kufuor engaged the services of Co-En Consulting Firm in 2005 to advise on the development of a sustainable pay policy and following the recommendations by the Consultants, the Government decided to adopt the SSPP as the most appropriate pay policy for the Public Sector to promote equity and fairness in salary administration.

Initial review by the Consultant revealed the lack of a pay administration framework with mandated responsibility and authority to implement pay reforms as the primary weakness in achieving previous pay reform objectives.

Effective pay administration provides standards, consistency and monitoring to ensure that pay is managed fairly and transparently across the Public Sector.

In anticipation of the effective implementation of the new pay policy, the Government in June 2007 established FWSC through an Act of Parliament (Act 737, 2007) to ensure fair, transparent and systematic implementation of the Government Public Service Pay Policy.

The FWSC is tasked to advise the Government and ensure that decisions are implemented on matters related to salaries; wages; grading and classification; job analysis and job evaluation; performance management and indicators; allowances and benefits and undertake negotiations where compensation is financed from public funds.

The list of service classifications, adopted for the single spine grading/salary structure include: public policy; planning; service administration and relaed services.

The rest are Health Services; Education (Non-tertiary) Education (Tertiary); Science and Research; Revenue and Accounting Services; Security Services; Legal and Judiciary Services and Sub-vented (Commercial and non-commercial regulators).

The policy determined the value of all public sector jobs to establish internal relativities across and within service classifications and to enable the Government to reward its employees in accordance with the principle of equal pay for work of equal worth consistent with Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 10 (b) of the Labour Act, 2003, Act 651. The Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) is a unified salary structure that places all public sector employees on one vertical structure with

incremental pay points from the lowest to the highest in an organisation. To achieve this effect all public sector employees would be placed on one vertical structure and ensure that jobs within the same job value are

paid within the pay range. The SSSS would allow the Government the ability to manage the wage bill more efficiently, ensure compliance and ease the monitoring of the pay

policy of self-accounting institutions and minimise industrial relations and tensions related to low pay and distortion across the public services.

The base of the spine is determined by the minimum wage whist placement would be decided by pay points for a new grade of a job, annual increments and movements to a new pay point based on a number of incremental steps available on the pay structure. Increasing the lowest amount on the spine automatically raise all amounts on the single spine.

Conversion to the Ghana Public Sector Single Spine Salary Structure, which spans a five-year period, would involve the Ministry of Employment

and Social Welfare, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, FWSC and other stakeholders.

The process would ensure that FWSC and labour reach agreements on the first phase, which began this year. The agreements border on service classification with allowances consolidated into base pay.

There must also be an agreement on standardisation of other allowances and conditions of service among other issues. In November, 2009, the Government published a White Paper on the SSSS, which indicated that the first six months of the implementation process will be used to address some persistent technical problems to ensure that the policy does not re-introduce inequities which it was designed to address.

The 13-page document accepted in principle the recommendations that the SSPP serve as basis for public service pay, effective January 1, 2010 subject to the correction of the technical problems associated with the current proposal.

"To achieve an ideal SSPP, Government recognises that a review of a proposed pay policy should be undertaken to address the technical issues (service function, job content, scheme of service, job descriptions, job evaluation; performance indicators, productivity indices) to enhance the effective implementation of the SSPP," the White Paper said.

Interestingly Ghana is not alone in the implementation of the structure. Most governments have either a single spine or a small number of pay spines to ensure that employees doing similar jobs receive equitable remunerations.

The UK, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Rwanda, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are on single spine pay policies.

Need for a reform in pay equity is a right under the Constitution and workers must wake up to this civil duty.

The so much talk about money should be translated into pay cheques in July for Ghanaian workers "to be in their numbers when the 'millionaires' go marching on". 2010 should be the year of single spine favour.

Columnist: GNA