Government managers need salary increases so they’re not out-earned by their staff: minister

Acting Public Service and Administration minister, Thulas Nxesi, says that senior managers in government deserve salary increases, despite the country’s high unemployment rate and many government workers having their wages frozen for the last three years.

In a written response to a parliamentary Q&A this week, the minister revealed that government employees in senior management service (SMS) accrued increases in 2021/22 totalling R373.16 million.

These employees earn at salary levels 13 through to 16 and are among the highest-paid civil servants outside of the executive. Salary increases for the 2022/23 financial year are yet to be determined.

The salary hikes in 2021/2022 came as South Africa reached record-high levels of unemployment, with 46% of adults unemployed according to the extended definition. It also follows many lower-level government workers having their salaries and wages frozen.

Nxesi said that the salary increases for members of the SMS in the Public Service are regarded as just, equitable and efficient use of public money in the current economic climate.

“The salary adjustments granted to members of the SMS is equitable, considering the fact that it is similar to what was granted to employees below the SMS. If the salaries of members of the SMS are not adjusted, it will result in a situation where employees below SMS will earn more than senior managers,” he said.

The minister said that the gap between the maximum salary notch of a deputy director on salary level 12 and a director on the minimum of salary level 13 is already narrow.

“In some occupation-specific dispensations, staff below SMS level already earn more than senior managers. This situation creates a disincentive for competent employees to aspire to become senior managers,” he said.

He noted the 2019 Incentive Policy Framework provides for payment of annual pay (notch) progression for eligible members of the SMS. The cost of living adjustment for 2021/22 was granted in lieu of pay progression.

“Furthermore, the remuneration of the members of the SMS are impacted by the changes in the consumer price index (CPI) that reflect changes in the cost-of-living and which has a direct impact on the “buying power” of their remuneration.

“As a result, the adjustments are necessary to protect the ‘buying power’ of the salaries of members of the SMS,” he said.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A in October 2021, former public service and administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo detailed the 16 salary bands across the public service, with employees in band 1 earning an average salary of R103,562.

By comparison, public sector workers in band 16 currently earn an average of over R2.1 million.

In the average pay data presented by Dlodlo, a discrepancy between earning levels 12 and 13 can be seen, as Nxesi described, with employees in the lower band (12) out-earning those in the higher band (13).

According to an April 2022 circular on government vacancies, level 12 salaries are supposed to be around R882,000 per annum. Level 13 salaries start at R1.07 million.

Here is a breakdown of how many workers are in each salary band, and what the average salary is.

Salary band Total number of employees per salary level Current average salary per salary level
1 263 R103 562
2 77 651 R171 278
3 69 003 R206 957
4 38 663 R247 296
5 201 244 R283 227
6 129 361 R332 985
7 306 703 R411 227
8 159 899 R479 868
9 99 927 R567 956
10 54 510 R710 273
11 35 365 R851 022
12 27 399 R1 222 246
13 7 660 R1 147 609
14 2 405 R1 378 620
15 528 R1 661 168
16 712 R2 130 602

Read: How much money government workers earn in South Africa

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Government managers need salary increases so they’re not out-earned by their staff: minister