What to do with a worker’s red circle pay

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

I have two non-management employees who are receiving salaries which are a bit higher than what a junior supervisor gets. This is due to the workers’ length of service and the annual across-the-board pay increases under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The trouble is that our human resource department is dragging its feet on our repeated requests in correcting the injustice. What’s the best solution for this? — Doing their Job.

One evening, a young man went to the home of the girl he had been dating regularly for more than one year. Tonight was the night. He asked her to marry him. Being very practical, the young woman replied: “When you have at least one million in the bank, I will seriously consider it.”

One year later, the two strolled hand in hand through a park. He stopped to kiss her hand, offered her an engagement ring and asked: “Will you marry me?” She inquired: “Well, you remember my condition. Just how much have you saved?”

He responded: “Exactly, P150,000.00.” She sighed and smiled. “Oh well, I guess that’s close enough to one million! At least, you tried.”

Doing something is better than doing nothing or delaying. “At least, you tried” is welcome recognition of one’s effort even if it falls short of expectations. However, I will not delve on your HR department’s delay in solving the issue but rather on your question about how to solve an issue adversely affecting the morale of supervisors.

You must understand that the real issue is injustice. Why would the supervisors who are management’s first line of defense be unjustly treated on matters of pay? This is a sensitive subject that your top management must handle very carefully with reasonable speed.

This means applying a great deal of diplomacy on all concerned, including the HR department, even if it appears incompetent at first glance. Now, for the solutions, explore the following strategies with the help of HR:

One, reclassify the red circle employees as supervisors. This is the fastest way but not necessarily easy to implement, particularly when people refuse to be promoted to the supervisory level. For one, they don’t want to assume the responsibility of supervising workers for so many “personal” reasons that includes being eligible for overtime and avoiding the potential for becoming unpopular with workers.

It is important to review the performance of the red circle workers to justify their reclassification to a higher job grade. If you do not conduct a performance review, there’s a big chance that you will be creating a bad precedent, assuming that they are not qualified for reclassification or promotion.

Remember that these are union members. They can bring the issue to a grievance proceeding, and can be misinterpreted as “defanging” the union, which is not absolutely correct, as vacancies can be created and the same post can be filled up by other workers who will be given the chance to move to a higher grade level.

Two, conduct an industry salary survey. This must cover all key rank-and-file positions, supervisors and managers. The problem with initiating a special survey like it is the length of time needed, plus the sizeable investment and the number of companies that are willing to participate in the survey.

That’s why it’s better to buy the latest survey results from consultants like Towers Watson, Robert Walters or Mercer, if not from the People Management Association of the Philippines or the Employers Confederation of the Philippines that charge lower fees than the three consultants I mentioned earlier.

Whatever survey that you have is more than enough to help determine the reasonableness of your current pay structure. If your current salary is below the industry average, then you need to move fast to correct the situation. In the first place, I am inclined to believe that you were fully armed with such data at the time of your CBA negotiation with the union. Otherwise, it would be unthinkable and reckless for any organization to discuss pay and perk increases with the union in the absence of this basic document.

Three, prohibit the red circle workers from doing overtime work. Allowing the concerned workers to do overtime work would exacerbate the situation. If overtime work is really necessary, assign it to other workers who are receiving much less than the red circle ones and without necessarily creating another union issue. The whole objective is to show the fairness of this decision by distributing the workload to all employees, if not avoid the root cause of why overtime work is necessary in the first place.

Who knows? You may even discover a solution to a nagging problem of having some over-friendly supervisors and managers allowing their workers to do overtime work, even if unnecessary.

Last, improve the material and non-material benefits of all supervisors. As soon as the salary discrepancy is discovered, it is best to pay a monthly cash allowance to the aggrieved supervisor. Then remove or incorporate the allowance into the basic pay of the concerned supervisor as soon as HR has resolved the issue.

Do this as a stopgap or permanent measure depending on the circumstances. Upgrade the supervisors’ perks and pay as dictated by the latest industry survey. The non-material considerations involve giving supervisors special consideration in pursuing graduate studies, or allowing them compensable time (say, two working days a month) to do their work elsewhere from time to time.

Another option is to recommend them to short-term and all-expenses foreign grants given by the Asian Productivity Organization or the Asian Overseas Technical Scholarship, among other related entities. The list of options is endless.

Whatever action you choose, it will be considered an indirect acceptance by your management that a salary discrepancy exists between red circle employees, who may receive more pay due to overtime premium, and your junior supervisors.

ELBONOMICS: High salary is a bribe to the workers so they can forget their dreams.


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