‘Killer’ Salaries Frustrate Workers In Gov’t Hospitals
The issue of low wages and poor conditions of service among Ghanaian workers especially public service workers has been a headache for successive governments over the past twenty years. This situation has led to rampant agitations from workers, with the most recent and intense being witnessed over the past nine months.
Various worker groups such as the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Tertiary Education Workers Union (TEWU) and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) from the educational and health sectors have all embarked on industrial actions due to low and unpaid salaries.
Quality of service delivery in the above sectors have dropped drastically because most of the workers say they have no motivation to work since at the end of the month, “our take home pay does not take us home.”
The lives of patients in most of the government hospitals are at risk due to the ever growing concern about salaries and allowances and the same can be said about the quality of tuition children get at the various government schools.
Some of these workers who spoke to The Weekend Globe said their gross salaries range between GHc300- GHc500. According to them, after deductions such as tax, SSNIT contributions, TUC dues and welfare contributions, the remaining amount ranges from GHc90- GHc250 as net salaries.
One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said “I receive just about Ghc90 a month after deductions are made to my basic salary which is Ghc300. Is this fair? How will I be able to survive the rest of the month without borrowing? With this small money I receive, government deducts a lot of taxes from it and they have increased the cost of everything in the country. This is just wickedness. I had to borrow money to get to work this morning. I am referred to as a worker.”
One other worker indicated that due to the low salaries she receives, she is not motivated in any way to give off her best when she is attending to patients. She said most of them have resorted to borrowing or employing ways and means tactics to take monies from patients.
“I am a dental surgery assistant. For my basic salary I receive Ghc411.42 cedis and my net salary is Ghc380.52 and I have a deduction of my SSNIT contribution which is Ghc22.53 and my PAYE is 33.25 and TEWU deduction is Ghc8.23. How am I able to survive? It is just by grace because I pay electricity which cost me like Ghc15 cedis in a month while I pay close to Ghc10 for water. I also pay rent of Ghc50 cedis a month. I take care of my mum and younger brother, how would I be able to have a comfortable life. As a nurse I feel sad for my patients because my worries could be transferred to them.”
These workers state that the amount of monies received as salaries at the end of the month has brought them a lot of difficulties in terms of their upkeep. They say the situation becomes very frustrating when they have to use their little salaries to pay school fees, utility bills and also provide food and shelter for their families. Most of the workers complained that they even face difficulties in getting money as transportation to work.
The workers have also expressed disappointment in government and other stakeholders for failing to provide some reliefs in the form of allowances for them in spite of the high standard of living and economic hardships the country is currently going through. According to them government is the major cause of their plight, due to its neglect of the working force in the country.
“I am a campus guard and I receive Ghc404 as basic salary and after all deductions are made I am left with Ghc100 which is virtually nothing. We are not given any allowances for meals and transportation to even help us survive with these meager salaries. We end up borrowing every time how can we take care of our families let alone save lives?” one man asked.
In 1997, the government of Ghana decided to address gaping disparities that had emerged between the pay of civil servants and those in the wider public sector. A nationwide job evaluation exercise was undertaken and a new grading and salary structure was developed to create equity. Despite these efforts, the Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) was only marginally successful as most public sector institutions did not convert to the new system.
Between 1999 and 2006, the few institutions that did so were considered consistently disadvantaged as a result of re-established pay and grade disparities. In 2006, the Kufour administration took a step to address these problems, through the introduction of the Single Spine Salary Policy. The new policy was implemented in 2010 by Mills government with the hope of ensuring equity, fairness and transparency in Public Service Salary Administration.
Three years down the line government has revealed that some 60% of the nation’s revenue is used to pay public sector workers; a move which government says has drained the national kitty. It says the new pay structure escalated government wage bill from about GH¢2 billion to more than GH¢7 billion by the end of 2012 but some workers think it has rather brought more hardship on them.
One said “I am a porter at the hostel in Korle bu my take home pay is about Gh?250. As I speak now my wife is sick, I need to pay my rent and moreover my I have my kid’s fees to pay. How can I do all this? We really need help. The single spine has brought us more hardship. Our salaries are just so bad.”
Director of Research at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Kwabena Otto attributed the problem of low incomes in the country to the high number of taxes charged on the salaries of workers.
According to him, government has continuously burdened workers by charging more taxes from their meager monthly salaries while reducing corporate tax which is an income tax for companies pushing most workers into poverty. “Even now you find government reducing cooperate taxes which is an income tax for companies while it’s at the same time concentrate on raising more taxes from people receiving meager salaries. If you take social security and the provident fund, it is in a long term way for the worker to save. Because without that kind of saving workers will retire into more poverty due to the fact that when they retire they are not going to receive that meager salary,” he said.
He said government must as a matter of urgency lower the taxes on personal emoluments of low income earners. “I agree with you that the deductions are so many but some of them cannot be avoided. What government should do is to lower the taxes on the personal emoluments of such people with meager salaries. You will remember that since 2005 we have advocated for an exemption of the minimum wage from taxation. This is because clearly most workers are gradually being taxed into poverty. And the question is how can government that is seeking to reduce poverty eventually tax people into poverty”, he asked.