Peanut pay in private sector: Do we blame minimum wage or unemployment?

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When asked about his view on personnel management, Maurice William Cuming opined that "Personnel management is concerned with obtaining the best possible staff for an organisation and (having got them) looking after them so that they will want to stay and give off their best for the job."

Cuming's position spells out two main issues worth a dissertation: An organisation must not only obtain the best possible staff, it must also look after them so that they will want to stay and give off their best for increased productivity and growth. But is that the situation here in our private sector? The 'soldier go soldier come' mantra has given rise to private sector employees being subjected to severe penny-pinching, and interestingly, the typical private sector employee hardly complains about peanut salaries for fear of losing his job to a hungry' soldier' on the waiting list who can't wait to grab the opportunity, or for fear of being labelled a stomach-oriented worker whose only mission is to chase his belly-needs.

In the case of private schools, the story is not a funny one. From the primitive days of the blackboard and chalk to the present day whiteboard and marker, the plight of the Ghanaian teacher has been a sad episode, but it appears the narrative gets gloomier as more and more private schools announce their presence in the system.

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It'll be sheer ingratitude for any sane mind to remark that private schools have not played an immense contribution to the educational landscape and development of Ghana. From producing great results to churning out great personalities whose services have in no doubt contributed greatly to the development and growth of Ghana, private schools deserve more than a standing ovation.

One common knowledge which, however, remains evasive is the blatant disregard some private sector employers (owners of private schools particularly) have for their employees and the impudence with which they treat these workers. Perhaps, it's high time private sector employers were drawn close to the fact that without the commitment and industry of their employees, the feats they've chalked and the money sitting in their purses would be close to a disappointment.

The argument that the private sector is now blessed with not only qualified workforce, but are also endowed with experts who are well-versed in their various job descriptions is one that cannot be refuted. This thus, makes nonsense and primitive the long-held notion that the private sector is a destination for jobless high school graduates who deserve to go home with kwashiorkor salaries at the end of the month. Chancing on the payslips of most private sector employees will draw tears from the most stubborn eyes. Arguably, the private sector produces fat results and can be said to be the driving force of a country's economy but sitting exactly opposite this great result is the lean salary of the private sector employee.

It's heart-wrenching to learn that there are private schools with a student population of over seven hundred, and whose students pay between six hundred and nine hundred Ghana cedis for school fees. Yet, there are graduate teachers in these schools who take a basic salary of five hundred and six hundred cedis (subject to SSNIT and tax deductions). In the end, the teacher, who must cater for himself, his family, rent and other utility bills, goes home with a token of either three hundred or four hundred cedis for sweating the entire month.

So who holds the blame here? Do we curse the government for purging the minimum wage at an amount that can't feed the church mouse? Or we blame unemployment for the woes of the graduate private sector employee who's yet to secure a 'comfortable home' with the Controller and Accountant General? Perhaps, the most effectual antidote to fixing this extreme turpitude lies in the conscience of the private sector employer who should, as a matter of necessity, learn to respect the basic laws of humanity and pay heed to the principles of symbiotic relationship.

Funny enough, it's these parsimonious employers who believe that their employees have no blood in them and so while they choose to live in mansions, buy expensive phones and flashy cars for their "more human" children, sit at restaurants and treat themselves to sumptuous meals at the expense of their workers' sweats, these employees should stick and stay with them till the conversion of the Jews and have their purses and belly grow leaner by the minute. The 'Messiah' employee who dares lead a crusade for better conditions of service risks outright dismissal and goes home with insults as his end of service benefit.

Cuming's position on personnel management as unequivocally stated above should prod the ears of the private sector employer that once he stays loyal to parsimony and needless penny-pinching, his establishment becomes a 'bus stop' for his employees, who won't hesitate to get on board an 'attractive' bus to a more secure destination. In this case, if the establishment is a private school, it does not really become a source of employment. It becomes more of a training college where teachers go to learn some basic teaching pedagogy and exit after completing their 'various courses of study.'

Government is not solely responsible for Ghana's growth. The private sector is equally responsible and the manpower of the private sector is an integral part of the struggle. It's the same Ghana we're all building and what affects the nose also affects the eyes. A word to the wise, our grey-haired men say, is enough. I shall return!