It is irresponsible and wrong to suggest that there is a ‘wage gap’ between the lowest and highest pay levels in an enterprise. This is a deceptive statement of the relative worth of the lowest and highest paid individuals in the enterprise. Prior to 1979, in the pre-Wiehahn era, employees were paid differently and in many instances because of race or sex differences. There were ‘horizontal wage gaps’ in jobs at the same level and vertical gaps caused by disproportionate increases across the progressive levels of senior jobs. Proportionality is now the name of the game and no such ‘gaps’ are tolerated. Not only is any form of discrimination outlawed but it is no longer feasible to compare any such distinct ‘groups’, such as executives.
Our labour laws require all enterprises to create constant proportionate pay and work frameworks based on seven occupational (work processing) levels. Pay has to be aligned with the work done or contribution of each employee. It is unreasonable to expect enterprises to ‘reward’ employees for ‘inputs’ that do not add extra value. Unless a qualification or long service adds additional value, or there is a shortage of those skills in the market, there is no point in paying ‘premium’ wages to employees. This is the value exchange equation. South Africans expect to live in a free and competitive market. Any premium paid must be earned by offering premium value. It is unfair and unreasonable to suppose that consumers will pay for the cost of unnecessary premium wages, or to assume that entrepreneurs will cut their return on investment. There is no other way of funding that premium.
Employees in the top three levels decide on policy, strategy and tactics. Employees in the bottom three levels implement the decisions. The critical fourth level is the vital link between the upper and lower sets of levels. Those junior managers ensure that decisions are implemented by the correct persons, at the correct time and place. They must be trained and their skills developed to enable them to become ‘executives’ in due course. Section 27 of the Employment Equity Act obliges employers to eliminate all disproportionate pay differentials. Using the term ‘wage gap’ only confuses readers and has the danger of prolonging the stigma of outlawed past practices.