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'SA mining CEOs need to be paid better'

Mining executives are underpaid in comparison to the salaries received in Canada & Australia.

Thousands of miners in Marikana gathered at the stadium to be addressed by Amcu leaders on 14 May 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of mining companies need to be paid better than their employees because of their expertise and understanding of complex issues, Odgers Berndtson South Africa CEO Jamie Robertson said on Wednesday.

The platinum sector strike, which is now in its fourth month, has seen employees as well as Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa lashing out at CEOs for their high salaries.

Robertson says as unpalatable as it may be to look at the rates of pay of some mining CEOs, high-level executives are underpaid in comparison to the salaries received in Canada and Australia.

He says in order for the South African economy to grow, the best business leaders are required to push the country forward.

"Leaders of this kind who understand complex issues are very sought after. We actually can't afford to use these leaders in our country."

Robertson says South Africa cannot strive to play in a global arena without attracting a high calibre of leaders who have an intricate understanding of business requirements, and can anticipate opportunity and growth.

He says the best way to tackle the disparity in the mining sector would be to focus on uplifting employees.

This could be done through investing in education and training so employees can gain skills and improve their own standing.

"Education is an amazing enabler to improve salaries. There is an awful lot of work to be done in SA and we have willing people. We just need to educate them."

Robertson says research shows the smaller the gap between the lowest and highest paid, the happier and more productive employees are.

He says South Africa is playing catch-up because of its past and is trying to compete with a very complex global economy.

"An observation to look at is there are only 100,000 people in SA that earn over one million [rand] in a population of 50 million. That is a very small percentage. In order to grow the pool for everyone, we need to attract more skilled leaders."