Paying People Right

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Paying people right is a great challenge for an organisation, the more so when the organisation is the big public sector comprising the Civil Service, the Parastatal Bodies, the Local Authorities, the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and the Private Secondary Schools, involving some 85000 people in 1300 grades.

A right pay in principle refers to one which the Government can afford (to pay); establishes fair relativities; compensates for the job values; attracts, motivates, and retains people with required skills in required numbers, among other things.

Pay fixation in the public sector in Mauritius is institutionalised. The Pay Research Bureau (PRB) has been set up as a permanent body under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office in the wake of recommendations of Salaries Commissioner PCM Sedgwick (1973). It is operational from 1 March 1978 as an independent organisation and acts as a Salaries Commission. Its objects are to regularly review the pay and grading structures and conditions of service in the public sector and make recommendations (in form of PRB Reports) with a view to establishing and maintaining differentials in respect of different categories of skills and levels of responsibility and ensuring that pay in the public sector keeps pace with those of corresponding positions in the private sector and the differentials do not become too wide.

The PRB looks into the salaries of constitutional posts and people employed on contract (advisers) and pensions of retired officers as well.

The total remuneration package comprises the financial (money) and non-financial rewards usually referred to as benefits like paid leaves (local, vacation, sick), passage benefits, duty exemption for the purchase of cars, etc. The pay (package) subtly positions people in the upper, middle or low-income group. The expectations of employees in the context of a salary review are manifold, ranging from fair working conditions, opportunities for career advancement and good pay (movement to next level income group).

The methodology of the PRB is complex and time consuming. Salaries are set on the basis of an evaluation system where understandably compensable factors like qualification requirements, experience and duties, etc., establish the relative job worth. The pay is determined by the job value and a pay structure established taking into consideration, among other things, inflation, movement in market rates, the going rate of pay increases, employee potential, organisational success, the adequacy of existing salaries and very importantly the ability of the Government to pay. It is a long assiduous work and not a quick fix.

In the evaluation and salary fixation exercises there is no gender discrimination. There is no conscious or unconscious gender bias. A post carries the same pay and benefits for either sex.

To my reading the PRB has through its past eight quinquennial reports met its objectives enunciated above, to periodically change pay and grading and make the government a fair and competitive employer despite changing labour market conditions so much so that the public sector has become very attractive particularly at the lower level (Manual and General Support workers) and middle level (diplomats, degree holders grades) where a relatively larger number of people are willing to join. There are areas where there is dearth of talents particularly at the upper level (professionals, specialist/super specialist doctors, lawyers, etc). The pay package of scarce talents in the private sector seems to be better than in public sector, hence the necessity for the PRB to look into the compensation package at this level differently in line with its stated objectives.

Many stakeholders including union leaders consent to the primordial role played by the PRB since its inception. I am confident that the PRB transcends ordinary notions of pay (across the board increases) and that the 2016 PRB Report, scheduled to be published in the coming weeks, will pay people right.

Source: PRB Reports

*  Published in print edition on 25 March 2016

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