Labour agitations: Way forward?

BY: Amankwa Benjamin Kwame
President of UTAG, Prof. Charles Marfo
President of UTAG, Prof. Charles Marfo

On Monday, August 2, 2021, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) directed its members to withdraw with immediate effect all teaching and related activities across public universities.

This directive was due to the government’s failure to address the worsening conditions of service of university teachers in the country.

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) also called on the government to fix the unfairness and disparities in the salaries of public sector workers.

The President of GNAT, Mrs Philippa Larsen, hinted labour agitations if the government failed to address what she described as the salary disparities among public sector workers.

Labour agitations in Ghana is not a characteristic of one political regime. Consistently, public sector workers in Ghana have had cause to declare industrial action.

These agitations are largely attributable to failed negotiations between the unions and the government over their conditions of service.

In his 2010 MPhil research work submitted to the University of Ghana, Legon, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of MPhil social work, Mr Paul Kofi Amegee noted that labour unrest was a social problem that has been plaguing Ghana for many decades.

He indicated that labour agitations predate the independence of Ghana and has not ceased even with the passage of the contemporary Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) that is touted as efficacious in preventing labour disputes from escalating into labour unrest.

The effects of labour agitation and unrest are enormous, with some labour unions and associations losing trust in the government’s commitment to addressing the issue of their conditions of service.

State institutions such as the National Labour Commission (NLC) suffer a similar fate as they are sometimes accused by the unions of being in bed with the government. But how do we deal with the issues of labour agitations in the country once and for all?

Forum

A consultative forum where representatives of all the labour unions would be allowed to present their demands to a technical committee, which will evaluate all submissions and submit same to an independent body, which should be established purposely to deal with public sector pay structure, is needed.

This body, among others, should consider the various levels of employment in the country, qualifications, performance bonuses and the requirements of every job in the public sector.

That would inform decisions on remuneration and emolument by the government which will be acceptable by the labour unions because of their involvement in the negotiations leading to the determination of the final pay structure.

The government should also consider training and exporting professionals such as teachers, health workers and accountants, to other countries that require such particular service for the generation of revenue at home.

It is time for the government and other stakeholders in the labour front to realise that dealing selectively with labour agitations and unrest in the public sector, as and when they arise is no longer sustainable, as when one is solved another arises.

The writer is an Associate, Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK)

Student, University of Education, Winneba

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