The Relationship between Salary, Productivity and Skills

After petrol attendants and car repair workers decided to strike, demanding a salary increase. @avemaseti twitted “Is it me who sees why people can’t be earning R4000pm? #PetrolAttendantStrike”. @sizwedlhomo replied “bleeding heart aside, explain to me why a petrol attendant should earn more than R4k a month” and this is where most of us decided to use our 140 characters worth comments or less.

To me it looked more like Sizwe was looking at the whole thing as an employer while the rest of us were looking at it as employees, but everyone’s points made sense and highlighted we still have a long way before we can say we leave in a developed country where its citizens have the knowledge and understanding that competition is healthy in order for one to strive and reinvent themselves as often as possible in order to remain relevant and a commodity in the working environment.

As the working class, we still struggle to understand the relationship between pay, productivity and skills and this is due to the fact that most of us are still stuck in pre ’94 with regards to knowledge, education and socially. Partly I blame the unions for the tradition of collective bargaining without the encouragement of individual or group productivity and performance, and the fact that pay and pay increase is always influenced by negotiating strength of either parties based on the cost of living in the country. I am against standardization of remuneration even though it has its benefits, largely for employers since it reduces competition based on labour cost and guaranteed retention of good staff *none-highly educated staff*.

I believe it is time for a new way of doing things and still allow unions to be relevant. Unions should start educating their members about soft and hard skills required within their respective industries. This would be a step towards progressing from low paying jobs to highly skilled pay systems which would encourage, recognise and incentivise the acquiring of relevant knowledge and skills. Employers would then seek ways to introduce a performance criteria into pay increases, both parties would then be able to negotiate part of pay increase on common ground. Workers would be paid based on their performance, rather than only the value of the job. Provided employers do not use performance based pay purely as a cost reduction strategy.

I struggle to understand the logic behind union members who continue to pay their membership without fail but every year when it comes to salary negotiations, the one body that is suppose to safe guard their employment interests always sees it necessary to call its members to assist put pressure to guarantee an increase or those who believe that unions will protect their positions.
For one, yesterday’s tweets have reinforced the fact that Knowledge and skills provide employees with a measure of protection against unemployment, as well as opportunities for higher earnings

To my fellow better paying job seekers, the only weapon we have in order to put a dent on cheap labour and exploitation is to aim at adding value to a particular resource or have an advantage in comparison to other job seekers.


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