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‘Govt won’t pay workers who go on prolonged strike’

BY: Dominic Moses Awiah

The government has decided not to pay workers who go on prolonged strike, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has announced. Accordingly, he has asked the various labour unions, particularly, those offering essential services, to establish a strike fund from which their members will be paid when they embark on strikes.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day seminar organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Organisation of Africa Trade Union Unity (OATUU) in Accra Tuesday, Mr Iddrisu said a new policy to that effect had been developed by the government.

“The government is unable to absolve the obligation of paying labour unions that go on extensive strikes. A minimum of 48 to 72 hours should be enough for any striking group,” he said.

The regional seminar, attended by participants from 21 African countries, is on the theme, “Trade union unity in Africa: Challenges, perspectives and future prospects”.

The labour front has, over the past years, been hit by extensive strikes, the most recent being that of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), which lasted about three weeks.

In July this year, the GMA declared a strike to demand coded conditions of service for its members.

The strike, which ended on August 24, this year, virtually grounded the health sector to a halt and, in the process, put so much pressure on the 37 Military and the Police hospitals.

 Challenges

Mr Iddrisu said in order to properly address the challenges within the labour sector, there was the need for the TUC to lead the crusade in ensuring that all policies regarding labour were reviewed.

“Labour unions must depart from militancy to dialogue to address any unproductive issues that may occur should they use prolonged strike,” he said.

He said the new policy sought to address the impasse between the government and labour unions, adding that “the focus will be on the betterment of the country’s economy”.

The minister said although strikes formed part of the fundamental rights of workers, prolonging them could spell doom for any developing nation.

 ILO concerns

The Director of the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities, Ms Maria Helena Andre, said the lack of unity and the proliferation of labour unions in Africa, had weakened the strength of the labour movement.

She said in order to make the various trade unions on the continent strong, there was the need for unity among member states in addressing the challenges that confronted their growth.

For his part, the General Secretary of OATUU, Mr Arezki Mezhoud, said there was the need for all trade unions to come together and form one giant umbrella.

That, he said, would empower them to stand as a united force to deal with issues that restricted their growth.