Hundreds of workers of the Tarkwa Mine of Goldfields Ghana yesterday embarked on a demonstration against measures by the company to change their status from permanent workers to contract miners.
The workers, with the support of the Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU), are resisting the change, arguing that it will not inure to their benefit, as they stand to lose a lot of their benefits as permanent workers.
Eight of the workers were arrested by the police for unlawful demonstration since the workers did not notify the police about the demonstration.
As early as 7 a.m., the workers, wearing red armbands and carrying placards, besieged the premises of the company to demonstrate against the decision.
They blocked access to the mine, thereby preventing other workers from going to work.
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The demonstrators were, however, met by a team of military and police personnel sent to help maintain law and order.
Some of the demonstrators got injured in the process, as they were met with some amount of force by the security personnel, who also fired warning shots to disperse them.
According to the Tarkwa Divisional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Edmund Bosompem, some of the workers hurled stones at the police and military personnel stationed at the entrance to the mine.
That, he explained, made him call for reinforcement from the Western Regional Police Command to bring the situation under control.
As of the time of filing this report, the leadership of the local mine workers union and the TUC were engaged in a crunch meeting on the way forward.
The management of Goldfields is yet to speak to the issue.
In December 2017, Goldfields Ghana Limited announced plans to lay off almost 2,000 workers as part of measures to change its business model and make the company profitable due to the relatively short lifespan of the mine.
The GMWU protested against the decision and petitioned Parliament to look into the matter.
The General Secretary of the union, Prince William Ankrah, who presented the petition, had indicated that the basis for the company’s actions was unfounded and could result in the loss of income for many of the workers.
The union also filed a writ at the High Court, praying the court to restrain Goldfields from going ahead with the intended redundancy exercise until all the issues were resolved.
They also wanted the court to say that the redundancy exercise was “unlawful”.
But the court, in its ruling on March 2, 2018, dismissed the injunction application, stating that the mining company risked losing more if the court halted the ongoing layoffs before a determination of the substantive matter on whether the company acted within the law.
At a national executive committee meeting in Tarkwa on March 6, 2018, which was also attended by the General Secretary of the TUC, Dr Yaw Baah, the GMWU came up with a road map for seeking redress, notably the hoisting of red flags on the company’s premises, a sit-down strike from today, March 13, and a sympathy strike by the GMWU across the country on March 20, 2018.