Protect the poor and invest in labour to reduce conflicts : TUC

BY: Daily Graphic
Mr Kofi Asamoah — TUC Secretary-General

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has suggested to the government to factor into the 2016 budget statement employment creation, investment in labour market institutions, social protection for the poor and support for the private sector.

It observed that it would be through adequate human and material resource investment in labour market institutions that tension on the labour scene would reduced.

In a statement proffering suggestions for the 2016 Budget and Economic Policy of the government, the TUC also said the total budget allocation to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) was woefully inadequate.

“The total allocation to the MELR in 2015 was GHc43,787,365. The allocation to the National Labour Commission (NLC) was GHc2,700,476. These are woefully inadequate. We expect a significant increase in the allocations to these important labour market institutions in the 2016 Budget. We urge government to invest in these institutions.

“Investments in these institutions, in terms of human and material resources, will enhance social dialogue among the social partners and reduce the tension on the labour scene, especially as we enter an election year,” it said.

It said if taken seriously, the suggestions would provide the basis for a peaceful election year and sustainable social and economic development beyond 2016.

It also urged the government to have the “courage to abandon the policies that were suppressing economic growth, destroying jobs, widening inequality and pushing many Ghanaians into severe poverty”.

It added that the TUC was ready to work with the government to implement policies that would boost employment in both the private and the public sectors, restore growth and protect the socially vulnerable population in society.

The statement said the MELR, the NLC, the Labour Department and the Department of Factories Inspectorate had the responsibility to work with trade unions and employers’ organisations to ensure a peaceful industrial relations atmosphere in the country.

It observed, however, that due to the lack of human and financial resources, those institutions were unable to perform that duty effectively.

“The frequent strikes and threats of strikes are a good indication of the collective weakness of these institutions,” it pointed out.

It said in 2014, although the NLC received 428 complaints from workers, group of workers, workers’ associations, trade unions and employers, it was able to deal with just about half of those cases.

Employment creation
On employment creation, the statement decried the fact that the employment challenge had not received the needed attention in terms of the resourcing of employment-creation programmes from a review of past budgets and economic policy statements.

It said the emphasis had rather been placed on macroeconomic stability, with the false assumption that the rate of employment creation would increase with the achievement of macroeconomic stability.

“Experience in Ghana in the last three decades has shown there can be reasonably high levels of economic growth without commensurate creation in the formal economy,” it said.

On health, the statement indicated that the doctor-population ratio of 1:10,000 and the nurse-population ratio of 1:1,000 were “far lower compared to international standards of doctor-population ratio of 1:600 and a middle-income average of 1:1,282.”

It said the 7,000 officers of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the 30,000 personnel of the Ghana Police Service, as well as the staffing of other security agencies, fell below internationally recommended ratios.

“Obviously, we need more teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, fire officers, prison officers, immigration officers and other professionals in the public service.

We also need more sanitary and environmental personnel to ensure that our cities and towns are clean. This is the responsibility of the government,” it said.

Social protection, support for private sector
The statement, however, commended the initiative of the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection in developing the Ghana National Social Protection Policy.

“We are ready to support this great initiative because we believe that the implementation of this policy can contribute immensely to the eradication of poverty in our society,” it said.