Defence Force Service Commission against delinking SANDF salaries from rank

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The Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) has recommended against delinking salary from rank in the entire South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in order to prevent salary stagnation, but has suggested other methods to combat the problem, which affects some 17% of the SANDF.

The DFSC Pay and Service Benefits Committee (PSBC) instead recommends increasing salaries (but not ranks) of 8 900 affected personnel based on years of completed service and good performance.

In a notice in the Government Gazette dated 23 June 2017, the DFSC notes that as part of its mandate it must make recommendations to the Minister of Defence on improvements of salaries and service benefits of members.

One of the issues it is providing input on is the delinking of salary from rank, which was first put forward by previous defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu in 2012. “Because of the sheer size of the Defence Force a great number of our soldiers are trapped in particular ranks with no prospect of improvement of their salaries,” she told Parliament that year.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the DFSC developed a model for delinking salary from rank. The proposed model was based primarily on the United States military’s pay tables, which had pay grades for different ranks, recognising years of service with overlapping salary bands.

On 10 January 2013, the full cost of the model was estimated at R1.45 billion in addition to the human resources budget. “The model was deemed to be unaffordable for the SANDF and the DFSC was then tasked to explore alternative models or implementation strategies.”

In February 2013, the Military Command Council approved the Department of Defence (DoD) human resources (HR) Charter and the Defence Review 2014 was approved by Cabinet in March 2014. The DFSC visited SANDF bases/units during the 2015/16 financial year and noted members remuneration concerns.
“Currently in the SANDF, the compulsory exit age is 60 years, which in our view compounds, amongst others, the challenges faced with promotion and salary stagnation,” the DFSC said.

In the SANDF, a member may progress from the first notch of their respective rank through the pay progression system to the last notch of that salary scale/grade linked to the rank. When this occurs, one would stop progressing and become stagnated until they are promoted to the next rank. The current structure means that a member could reach the top notch of their respective rank in five years.

According to research by the DFSC, 82% of SANDF members have spent less than 12 years in their current rank, meaning that they are not affected by salary stagnation. “In the next five years, a considerable number of members in leadership positions will reach the compulsory retirement age and majority of the retirements are in the groups which are currently the most affected by stagnation,” the DFSC said.

In its recommendations, the DFSC considered “a once off allowance for the affected members and the option of implementing a grade progression system as an interim measure while a unique SANDF dispensation framework is developed that will be in line with the Defence Review by the DFSC.” Only the roughly 15% of affected SANDF members would benefit from these recommendations.
“The DFSC-PSBC therefore recommends that the SANDF should not delink salary from rank, instead implement a system that will target the affected members… The proposed structure will be similar to the current grade progression model which is implemented in the general Public Service… It is thus clear that delinking the entire SANDF will not be affordable and is unsustainable.
“Nonetheless, delinking the entire SANDF would have cost the DOD R1.45 billion in 2013 as opposed to the R87 million that has been currently estimated with the implementation of this model.”

The model would be based on completed continuous years of service in a rank and corresponding salary grade and recognition of performance. “SANDF members on any rank who have completed 15 years of continuous service in a particular rank, who have obtained at least a satisfactory rating in their most recent performance assessments, shall progress to the next salary grading,” the DFSC said. “The implementation of this model will not constitute a promotion, members will still retain their ranks and only the salary will be changed.”

E L van Harte, Chairperson of the DFSC, concluded that “The DFSC-PSBC’s targeted approach to address the challenge of stagnation will allow the SANDF to provide relief where it was intended in a cost effective manner.”

Now that the DFSC has made its recommendations, it is up to Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, to take the matter further.



In order to achieve sustainability, the Defence Review commands that the compensation for employees must not exceed 40%. For 2015/16 financial year, the HR budget accounted for 55.6% (R24.7 billion) of the total defence budget (R44 billion). This requires the DOD to decrease its human resources budget by 15.6% in relation to its total defence budget over a specific period.