Organised labour urged to resolve salary issues amicably

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr. Abraham Koomson
Mr. Abraham Koomson

The leadership of Organised Labour has been urged to, as a matter of urgency, engage workers to amicably resolve issues concerning salary increments.

The General Secretary of the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL), Mr. Abraham Koomson, who made the call, said if urgent steps were not taken to nip worker agitation in the bud, it could escalate.

He was speaking at the opening session of a two-day workshop organised by the GFL, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for leaders of GFL-affiliated unions in Accra yesterday.

Public sector workers have raised concerns and agitation over the four per cent increment in their salaries for 2021, as determined by the tripartite committee, comprising the government, employers and organised labour.

Some of the workers have held demonstrations in parts of the country to protest against the increment.

"This can break down the already degraded and disabled organised labour to complicate the aggravated challenges of vulnerable workers," he said.

The GFL General Secretary said given the current economic conditions and the ravages caused by COVID-19, the agitation by public sector workers against their leadership for non-performance at the tripartite negotiations was justifiable.

"Considering the multiple taxes imposed by the government on citizens this year, despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the midst of the high cost of living in the country, one will find it difficult to understand the acceptance of six per cent minimum wage and four per cent public sector base pay adjustments as fair and responsible bargain," he said.

Weak trade unions

Touching on the state of trade union movements in Ghana, he described it as "chaotic" and lacking the potential "to play the historic role of defending and protecting the interests of workers".

He cited ineffective representation of the labour movement at national negotiations fora by the tripartite committee, non-existent organised labour structures, as provided for under sections 112 and 113 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) to establish the hierarchy to facilitate consultations, among members.

GFL-ILO collaboration

Mr. Koomson commended the ILO for the long-standing relationship with the GFL since 1999.

He said the workshop, which was one of such collaborations, would help build the capacity of labour leaders to effectively participate in stakeholder engagements, enrich tripartite collaborations and ensure the promotion of social justice and decent work in the country.

Among other things, the workshop was meant to develop a strategic plan that would guide the GFL and its affiliates for the next four years, build the capacity of the leadership of the federation on contemporary issues that impact their work and critically examine the prevailing challenges facing the trade unions in Ghana.

Prioritise workers' plight

The Director of Programmes and Projects at Bernawel Management and Consultancy Services, Dr. Julius Kwaku Kattah, said it was important to prioritise the plight of workers, especially those in the public sector, as the economy picked up from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The policy analyst and public speaker said it was worrying that while the salaries of workers had been affected by the COVID-19 scourge in 2020, other indicators, such as the exchange rate, the prices of goods and services and the cost of living, had skyrocketed, making the worker worse off.

"These and many others captured by the numerous demands by the #FixTheCountry reflect critical issues threatening the security of the state," he said.

He observed that the labour front, which had a strong representation at all key state institutions, still had a mandate to remain diligent and patriotic and fight for the average Ghanaian by holding the government accountable.