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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Columnist: Ameyibor, Francis

Chiropractic manipulation for Single Spine "Pain" Policy

(by Francis Ameyibor, Development Communicator)

Accra, April 28 Manipulation of the cervical spine or neck region is a common technique utilized by doctors of chiropractic for patients complaining of neck, upper back and shoulder/arm pain as well as headaches. Similar to the treatment for many conditions affecting the low back, chiropractic is considered as a first line of treatment for a range of cervical spine conditions.

Since the introduction of the Single Spine Pay Pain, Policy (SSPP) in Ghana, various Economic Doctors, have come out with SSPP cervical spinal manipulation - often thought of as the traditional chiropractic adjustment or a High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude (HVLA) technique or cervical spinal mobilization - which is a more gentle/less forceful adjustment, or a Low-Velocity, Low-Amplitude (LVLA) technique moving the joint through a tolerable range of motion. But still we have failed to diagnose and treat the Single Spine Pain in the back of Government and Employees.

GOVERNMENT WAGE BILL UNDER THREAT

The general conclusion after a few years of implementation is that the policy is impacting negatively on the government wage bill.

It is striking to note that Nii Armah Ashitey, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, has said the level of productivity under the SSPP is still low, and called on workers to put in much more effort to raise it.

What is required is not to admonish workers to put in more efforts but to put in place structures to ensure operationalization of the productivity component of the policy. Sadly, as a nation, we have failed to implement the productivity component of SSPP.

The SSPP has two components financial and productivity. Currently we are holistically implementing the financial aspect, which led to pay increment across board.

QUARTERLY PRODUCTIVITY INPUT TEMPLATE

The productivity component has three elements: trade unions/associations, Public Service Commission, and Managements. The three institutions need to develop a Quarterly Productivity Input Template (QPIT) for institutions and individual staff which must be harmonized to serve as the baseline for determining institutions and individual staff input.

To serve as checks and balances and to ensure transparency, the three institutions must appoint separate personalities at each public institution to administer the QPITwhich must be forwarded to the Prices and Incomes Commission (PIC) by the last working day of the quarter.

The PIC, upon receipt of the analyses, will submit its report to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) as well as the three institutions - trade unions/associations, Public Service Commission, and Managements. Based on the report the Finance Ministry would release the next quarter subvention to the institutions.

Institutions and individuals who fail to meet targets must suffer either by withholding their subvention or other measures are put in place to ensure that targets are met. Since the Trades Union Congress and management were involved and supplied the QPIT for the report, it would be difficult for them to oppose its implementation.

By using the QPIT the government/organisation becomes aware of the performance of all the institutions/employees based on which an individual is either rewarded or denied salary increment in the next financial year. Chief Executives and institutions who fail to meet targets must also suffer the consequences. Salary increment can no longer be an annual across board ritual under SSPP.

The QPIT process also involves orientation of labour unions to demandfrom workers, accountability and productivity. Under the current implementation strategy, the role of labour unions and associations is under-utilized.

Labour unions have a major role to play under the productivity implementation mechanism - they have a mandate to also set benchmarks and timelines for their members.

Unions must not only exist to agitate for pay increment, they must also agitate for productivity increment as increase in productivity brings more money into the consolidated funds for government to use for development and pay salaries.

Unions must justify, with evidence, the need for pay increase. The justification should not be based on only the economic condition. Under SSPP the economic condition, that is increase in the prices of goods and services, is not enough justification for pay increase.

The system must mandate Ministers, Managers and Supervisors to communicate to employees their individual benchmarks, establish expectations regarding employees performance, specifically how employees actual performance will be measured and the success determined.

Under SSPP regime it is no longer work as usual. Productivity must double. No room for mediocrity in management/supervisions. Staff must not cover for their lazy colleagues or they all suffer salary drops.

Sector Ministers, Managers, and supervisors who fail to set benchmarks for their institution and staff must suffer the consequences.

RE-EXAMINE THE PRODUCTIVE COMPONENT OF SSPP

As a nation let us go back to the drawing board, re-examine the productive component of SSPP.

QPIT must therefore become the baseline for the Public Services Joint Standing Negotiation Committee (PSJSNC) for negotiations on base pay for public sector workers.

QPIT also ensures that employees are responsible for meeting performance expectations and progress towards meeting expectations is measured, reported, discussed and documented throughout the year.

QPIT also uses verifiable information collected and documented throughout the year to determine the extent to which actual performance has met the expectations defined in the work plan.

In case of poor performance, the supervisor documents the performance that falls short of expectations by preparing a corrective action plan or other documentation, which should specify the performance problem, the steps to be taken to improve performance, including the timeframe of the improvement, the consequences of failure to improve, and a follow-up date.

MORATORIUM ON STRIKES

The Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Mr Paul Victor Obeng, was quoted in August last year as calling for a moratorium on strikes pending the resolution of the bottlenecks in the implementation of the SSPP.

According to him, the implementation of SSPP had brought about an unfair representation in the countrys national income, resulting in an astronomical rise in the national wage bill.

Mr Obeng made the call at the inauguration of a 16-member Post-forum Implementation Committee of the SSPP.

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) raised the red flags expressing doubt over the governments argument on the high public sector wage bill.

According to the TUC; "The provisional outturn for 2012 in terms of public sector emolument as a ratio of total revenue was 46.28 per cent lower than the proportion recorded in 2008.

In terms of Gross Domestic Product, the public sector wage bill was 9.8 per cent of GDP in 2012. When oil revenues are excluded, public sector wages consumed 55.31 per cent of revenues.

When the arithmetic is done, taking into consideration only tax revenues, public sector wage consumed 57.94 per cent of total tax revenues in 2012. These are significant proportions by any measure but they fall short of the figures the government and its officials are touting to the public," the TUC said.

Mr Obeng said while SSPP had come to address some lapses in the public sector payroll, issues of low productivity and high wastage continued to plague the public sector.

He urged the committee to come up with a communication strategy for its public education activities in order to dissuade public misconceptions on the implementation programme.

You must come up with responsive practical pieces of advice and also a work programme to identify what to do, so that the running of the committee would not become an additional cost to the nation, he said.

Careful monitoring of the public sector reveals that about 60 per cent of staff works between four and six hours daily instead of the mandated eight hours. Another 30 per cent works between six and eight hours whilst a small fraction of 10 per cent works above the eight hours.

Public servants still go to work late, leave the office early, and turn offices into markets places, high rate of absenteeism resulting in low productivity.

Public Sector workers have no option than to increase productivity if not government must develop the political will deal with the problem which must not degenerate into a political game.

PUBLIC SECTOR PRODUCTIVITY REVOLUTION

Government must be backed by the various labour unions to initiate a Public Sector Productivity Revolution to ensure the sustainability of SSPP or the public sector and the economy will collapse in the near future. Do we sink together or we throw away the lazy ones to survive?