“What is needed now is a national conversation on public sector pay and national priorities. And it needs to start as soon as the strike is over, before the battle starts up all over again next year, and before even more advertising is booked in newspapers.
It’s time to step back, too, and ask more detailed questions about how we should pay our pubic servants and how we should compute their worth. Some are paid too little (and some are paid too much) for the skills they have, the responsibility they take on and the effort they put in. But who is overpaid and who is underpaid? What should be the differential between new and more experienced employees? How much should depend on performance? How should public sector pay be pitched relative to the private sector?”
Hillary Joffe, senior associate editor, wrote an important thought-provoking article in Business Day earlier this week – Wage battle masks the real public sector issues.
The entire articles should be read but here are some extracts:
Gap between youth and experience
“That gap between youth and experience may not be nearly wide enough to keep good, experienced teachers or nurses in the public service. But it is something the government has been trying to address since 2007, with the occupation specific dispensations for teachers, nurses, prosecutors and others”.
Corruption and excessive pay
“And the “fat cat” conduct of some Cabinet ministers and senior officials has hardly helped to smooth relations. Indeed, this strike may be as much about the unions’ fight against corruption and excessive pay and perks in the government and the ruling party as it is about the cost of living for workers”.
Compounding effect of wages
“The thing about wage increases themselves is they compound, with each year’s percentage coming on top of last year’s higher base. The government hasn’t made much of the fact that public servants in fact won a 13% increase last year (11,5% plus the 1,5% increment). Add 8,5% this year and the increase in public servants’ pay packets over two years is nearly 23%”.