In the wake of the industrial turbulence that seems to mark the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), this article attempts to throw some more light on the job evaluation system and the SSSS. It also seeks to suggest possible technical reasons as to why the implementation process may be coming up against some challenges.
The SSSS as many stakeholders might have known is a 25-grade structure designed to fit a job evaluation plan. The job evaluation plan considers four major compensable factors in arriving at the grade level for a job, or the position of a job in the hierarchy of other public service jobs. The four major factors are further broken down into thirteen sub factors. Each sub factor is graduated into levels of intensity (degree levels) with numerical values attached to each level. For example, level 1 of the Knowledge (education) sub-factor in the Plan is described/defined as ‘No educational background; must be able to understand work orders and instructions’, and level 10 of the sub-factor is described/defined as ‘Doctoral degree or equivalent training or qualification gained through extensive knowledge in a specialized field.’
To evaluate a job under the ‘knowledge/education sub-factor, therefore, one needs to consider what level of knowledge/education would be required for an average person to be able to do that particular job. Therefore if one evaluates ten different jobs under the sub-factor, they (the jobs) may be found to require different levels of knowledge and therefore ‘score’ different marks under the sub-factor. This goes for all the other sub-factors, and the summation of the marks scored under each of the thirteen sub-factors determines the placement of a particular job in the job grade and subsequently on the salary structure. This is how internal equity or “equal pay for work of equal value/worth” as enshrined both in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and the Labour law is given expression in practical terms.
If one wants to stretch the ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ argument to its logical conclusion then one would insist that not only should all jobs be evaluated, but also, that all positions be evaluated to determine their worth relative to all other job positions in the public service. This is to say that not only should the job of an Accountant be compared with that of an administrative officer but also all Administrative Officer positions be compared with one another.
This would obviously not be feasible considering the number of jobs and positions involved and the amount of resources that would be required to accomplish such a feat. In order to go round this problem, representative or benchmark jobs are normally selected and evaluated. The position of these representative jobs in the job hierarchy and the salary structure following the evaluation is used as a guide to place (match) all the other jobs onto the Salary Structure.
It must be noted that prior to the introduction of the SSSS, the Ghana Public Services (those covered under Article 190 of the 1992 constitution) have been operating over one hundred separate Salary Structures. The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) is charged with the responsibility of moving staff from these 100 plus salary structures onto one 25-grade Single Spine Salary Structure. As a result of the different types of jobs that have to be migrated and the varied salary levels that public servants bring along with them, the ‘migration’ exercise may have to go far beyond just moving public servants from their old salary structures onto the SSSS. The exercise may also include the determination, calculation and the payment of market or retention premia in some cases. Normally it is only a few benchmark jobs that are evaluated and placed on the new salary structure at the job evaluation system design phase; the placement of the rest of the jobs on the salary structure during actual implementation can present unforeseen challenges.
For example, an attempt to place all public service jobs and positions in a typical public service career ladder on the SSSS, in a manner that reflects the ‘right’ internal relativities, whilst also making room for career progression can prove to be a very tall order, indeed. Without any prior, revision of some of the traditional public service ‘personnel management’ policies, assignments of this nature can be fraught with intricacies of gargantuan proportions.
Needless to say, some balancing act sometimes, becomes necessary in order to get the ‘alignment’ right.
The current disagreements between some identifiable labour unions/associations and the FWSC with regard to placement and progression on the salary structure as well as other related grievances could be due to some of these normal implementation challenges, which could be ironed out with time, through dialogue, provided the aggrieved parties would exercise the required fortitude.
The aim of job evaluation is to put measures in place to enhance the level of objectivity and to minimise subjectivity in salary administration. However, we also need to remember that, human resource management is an applied social science, and job evaluation being a tool for human resource management is more of an art than ‘science’. The successful implementation of any job evaluation scheme and its accompanying salary structure depends ultimately on human judgement rather than not on scientific calculations.
The truth is that, the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) is about change and we all know that change can bring initial discomfort at times. However, one good thing about single pay spines is that they minimise disparities and distortions that might have hitherto bedeviled a public service salary administration system whilst they also make the public service personnel emoluments budget easier to estimate and to manage.
In the face of the teething problems that have characterised the ‘migration’ process so far, one might be tempted to suggest that some groups be moved out of the SSSS. Although this idea may be laudable and perhaps helpful in the short term, it may also inadvertently be spelling the “demise” of the SSSS for obvious reasons. It is not uncommon to make adjustments to new systems in order to accommodate post implementation problems that might have come up. That Ghana is not the first or the only country attempting to implement a single pay spine is attested to by the following commentators;
According to Rubery & Fagan (1995) “for majority of countries, pay structures are highly integrated, which in some cases involve a single pay spine covering all public service staff.” Marsden (1994) says that; “in Norway and Denmark, a uniform pay scale covers all government employees” It is also believed that ‘in France, the entire public sector workforce is bound by a single grid of pay scale.” (grille indiciaire de la fonction publique d’Etat)
It may not be in the long term interest of the state and internal pay equity to throw the SSSS away line hook and sinker just on account of any initial challenges. That would amount to throwing the baby away with the ‘bath’ water. All hands need to be put on deck to ensure that the opportunity to implement a single spine salary policy does not elude Ghana this time round.
By Emmanuel Kwami