/ 4 October 2018

Businesses expected to agree to publish pay ratios at Jobs Summit

Busa Vice-President Martin Kingston says the Jobs Summit should be seen as process
Busa Vice-President Martin Kingston says the Jobs Summit should be seen as process, not an event. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The two-day Jobs Summit, which kicks off in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon, is set to agree to a mechanism which will see businesses employing more than 50 people reporting on pay ratios in their annual financial statements.

According to Business Unity South Africa, the reporting will at first be voluntary, then move to mandatory, and will open the way for improved data and analysis on salaries as well “excessive pay disparities”.

Businesses are already required to report income differentials under the Employment Equity Act, but Busa CEO Tanya Cohen says the scope of the data has been limited so far, and there has been no mechanism for companies to benchmark themselves according to their industry or size.

The reporting of pay scales is just one of the 25 agreements expected to be signed on Thursday at the high-level jobs summit, convened by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in a bid to bring government, business, labour and community together to try to tackle the rising unemployment rate — recorded at 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018.

Cohen told the media at a roundtable event on the eve of the summit that 190 proposals had been made by the various constituencies, and these have been whittled down to 25 actionable programmes.

One of the suggestions by labour was a moratorium on job losses, which Busa President Sipho Pityana said would have been impossible, as some companies need to retrench for economic reasons in order to keep their doors open, and this is provided for under Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

‘No quick fix’

Busa Vice-President Martin Kingston said the Jobs Summit should be seen as process, not an event, and the difficult economic climate means the country needs to not only create new jobs but also stop the large scale retrenchments currently underway.

According to Statistics SA, 69 000 jobs in the non-agricultural private sector were lost in the second quarter of 2018.

Busa was at pains to point out that the Jobs Summit will be cautious about making promises about employment targets as there have been dashed hopes in the past.

“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no quick fix … it’s a very tedious, laborious process and involves all social partners working in tandem,” Kingston warned.

He said this summit would be different to other high-level attempts to create jobs as there will be a reporting mechanism in place to monitor the agreements.

Other plans to be signed on Thursday include a commitment to boost local procurement, improve trade in fruit and wine production and boost jobs in Early Childhood Development.

Pityana said that none of the solutions out of the Jobs Summit addressed the “structural fundamentals” which have led to low growth and high unemployment, but should be seen as a “significant contribution” and part of other programmes such as the stimulus package and Investment Summit later in October.

The World Bank on Thursday cut its estimate for South African GDP growth for 2018 to 1% from 1.4% and sees growth in 2019 remaining subdued as high unemployment constrains domestic demand. — Fin 24