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May Day celebration in Accra begins with workers’ procession

BY: Doreen Andoh
Workers of the Graphic Communications Group Limited at the May Day parade in Accra. Picture: PATRICK DICKSON
Workers of the Graphic Communications Group Limited at the May Day parade in Accra. Picture: PATRICK DICKSON

Workers in the country yesterday joined their colleagues in countries worldwide, to mark the 2019 edition of May Day, also referred to as International Workers’ Day.

The day is marked as a holiday to celebrate the contributions of workers to national development and nation building.

This year’s May Day coincided with the centenary celebration of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Ghana marked the day on the theme: “Sustainable pension for all; the role of social partners.”

The May Day celebration in the country has been a platform for workers to directly advocate better conditions of service and bring up other work related issues.

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The organisation of the celebration was led by Organised Labour, the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), and as part of the celebration, workers’ unions congregated on various grounds in all the 16 regions countrywide to commemorate the day.

National celebration

The 2019 celebration saw workers in Accra converge on the Black Star Square, wearing mainly company or organisations branded T-shirts.

Notable at the parade was a group of workers in red attire and red arm bands, with placards which read, "Stand up for Ghana and stop the killer contract, stop cheating us SSNIT, the premium cut for voluntary retirement is unfair”, among other inscriptions.

The celebration, which received massive patronage by workers, was characterised by dancing, amid singing and drumming.

Although the placards displayed by most of the workers unions talked about unconducive working conditions, their bearers seemed to have, for the period, taken their minds off those concerns to make the most of the day.

Unlike the previous years when the workers converged on the Black Star Square right from home, this year, they assembled at the Obra Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange area at 6a.m. and went on a procession through the Farisco Traffic Lights to the TUC headquarters before congregating at the Black Star Square, where they presented their concerns through the Secretary General of the TUC, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The President addressed the parade.

Disruption

The parade was briefly disrupted by a sudden rainfall which was characterised by strong winds and much sand.

Workers on parade took cover under the concrete sheds at the Black Star Square and in their buses to avoid getting wet.

Some of the workers, however, defied the weather and continued to sing, drum and dance in the rain.

After the rains, almost all the workers returned to the parade grounds to listen to the various addresses and continued with the singing, drumming, dancing, and blowing of vuvuzelas.

The about 20-minute rain accompanied by strong winds tumbled some of the canopies mounted at the parade grounds under which people where selling.

The Secretary General of the TUC, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah, also took turns later to address the parade.

Roadmap

Dr Baah called for a clear road map for a universal pension scheme in the government’s 2020 budget.

He described the current situation, where only 1.5 million workers out of a workforce of about 13 million Ghanaians were covered by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) pension scheme, as unacceptable.

Background

Ghanaian workers observed their first May Day in 1960, three years after the country gained independence, and the first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was declared the: "First Number One Worker", at the event.

He was decorated with a May Day Award by the TUC, which was then under the leadership of then Secretary-General, Mr J. K. Tettegah.

May Day celebration was suspended in the wake of the first military coup which toppled Dr Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP) Government on February 24, 1966.

The celebration was resumed a year later in 1967 and after the January 13, 1972 military coup, led by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, the event was marked with a grand national parade at the forecourt of the Accra Community Centre.

That year saw the institutionalisation of May Day awards to selected dedicated workers of the TUC, then led by Secretary-General Alhaji A.M. Issifu.

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