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May Day celebration returns to Black Star Square after two-year break

BY: Samuel Duodu & Nana Konadu Agyeman
Some workers marching at the parade
Some workers marching at the parade

Hundreds of workers from the various labour unions in their colourful May Day 'T' shirts and Polo shirts converged on the Black Star Square in Accra last Sunday to commemorate this year's May Day celebration, with pomp and splendour.

The Workers Day celebration, marked with a parade and march past, made a return to its usual form this year, after a two-year break due to restrictions of movements and a ban on mass gatherings as part of the safety measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The workers, who sat in the various stands designated for them, could not hold back their joy and excitement as they sang and danced to foot-stomping quick songs, popularly known as "Jama" tunes.

The atmosphere at the Black Star Square was filled with excitement, joy and happiness as the workers, without any restrictions, interacted with one another to celebrate the national May Day.

COVID-19 could not stop us

The Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ghana, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, said at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the May Day was celebrated virtually with that of the 2020 celebration taking place at the television studio of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GTV).

"The pandemic could not stop us from celebrating May Day. Even though we had to celebrate it virtually in 2020 in the studios of GBC, the President joined us in the studio to celebrate May Day,” he said.

The Secretary-General also acknowledged that it was the sixth time organised labour was celebrating May Day with President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo since he took office in January 2017.

“Even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, he joined us to celebrate the May Day. This is commendable and thank you Sir,” Dr Baah stated.

May Day

On the theme: "Protecting Jobs and Incomes in the Era of COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond", the occasion provided an opportunity for organised labour to share its perspectives on the multiplicity of challenges facing the country and the people.

The International Day of Workers, often known as May Day, Labour Day, or simply Workers' Day, is a worldwide event that encourages workers to be aware of their rights.

The day has its origins in early socialist and labour union activities and many countries recognise it as a national holiday.

Some workers displaying their placards at the parade in  Accra. Picture: SAMUEL TEI ADANO

Some of the workers who spoke to the Daily Graphic at the parade described the theme as appropriate and in the right direction, following the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic had wreaked on the economy.

They said the effect of COVID-19 included some staff layoffs and a cut in salaries for some workers in the private sector.

The about 31 labour unions that took part in the celebration hanged their banners in front of the stands where they sat to listen to the various speeches that were delivered to mark the day, especially from the Special Guest of Honour, President Akufo-Addo.

Dignitaries

Also present were the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta; the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah; a Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Bright Wereko-Brobbey; the Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, Dr John Ofori-Tenkorang; the President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Daniel Acheampong, and the Chief Executive Officer of the GEA, Mr Alex Frimpong.

Others were the General Secretary of the International Trades Union Congress, Africa, Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity, Arezki Mezhoud; the Cuban Ambassador to Ghana, Anette Chao Garcia, and the Resident Director of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Johan Ivanov.

Also in attendance were some members of the diplomatic community and the leaders of the various labour unions.

Highpoint

One of the highlights of the celebration was the display of placards during the march past to communicate directly with the President and other members of the Executive sitting on the dais.

Some of the placards displayed by the workers read "Mr President when will our salaries grow like yours", "We only want to survive, Nana Addo hear our plea", " Presido, Do Something Before You Go!", "Inflation has Eroded Our Earnings”, “We want "COLA", " Single Spine: Too Bad", "Cushion us with Salary Increase so we can keep afloat in this economy", "Fellow Ghanaians! Workers are Suffering", and "No Political Neutrality Allowance, No 2024!".

Others were: "Things are Really Hard", " Mr President We Are Tired of Unfair Salary Structure", "Little drops of taxes make a mighty nation", "2023 Negotiations; 25% increase or else....", "Mr President Protect Local Industry Players from overexploitation by multinationals", "Mr President, is E-Levy Our May Day Gift?", and "We Want a Living Wage".

A joint Ghana Police Service and Ghana Prison Service band was also in attendance to provide some patriotic marching songs during the march past.

Awardees

About 55 workers from the various labour unions were honoured at the parade for their distinguished and meritorious services and hard work.

They were presented with citations.