Resource NLC to function effectively - Labour consultant

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
 Mr Senyo Adjabeng — Labour consultant
Mr Senyo Adjabeng — Labour consultant

A labour consultant, Mr Senyo Adjabeng, says the National Labour Commission (NLC) needs to be resourced and strengthened to enable it to function effectively to deal expeditiously with issues that come before it.

He said for instance that the structures of the commission were so inadequate and weak that it had commissioners who were part timers who sat only a few times a week, thereby making it impossible for it to address issues quickly.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Adjabeng noted that when the commission was well resourced, it would be able to prevent some of the labour disputes before they got out of hand.

Labour turmoil

The local labour front has been hit by series of industrial actions by some groups over the past few weeks.

The immediate ones are those by the University Teacher Association of Ghana (UTAG), the Senior Staff Association-Universities of Ghana (SSA-UoG) and the Federation of Universities Senior Staff Association (FUSSAG).

All these groups are demanding better remuneration and conditions of service for their members.

However, after the intervention of the NLC, both the SSA-UoG suspended their strike, while UTAG has sought to challenge the commission in court over the directive to call off its industrial action, which it began on August 2, 2021.

Three teacher unions — the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana (CCT-GH) — have also served notice to the NLC that if by September 30, this year, the government is unable to address certain grievances, they will advise themselves.

Mr Adjabeng said because of the weakness and inadequacy of structures, the commission was unable to be proactive in its nature, stressing that if the commission was present at negotiation meetings between parties, it would be able to advise whenever there was a deadlock.

“But the commission does not have the resources to be able to do that, so it is difficult. Interestingly, the commission is tripartite, made up of government, employers and organised labour, and these three social partners are supposed to make it work better,” he said.

He noted that if the commission was not working well and parties were not trusting it, then the three social partners should go back and look at the law of the commission and find a way of restructuring and strengthening it to give it the necessary resources for it to be able to bite.

Mr Adjabeng said for now he did not think the commission was powerful enough to do much except to give directives and go to court to compel groups on strike to call off their action and return to the negotiation table.

He explained that the commission, which was supposed to be a neutral body, should not be seen engaging the unions in litigation.

ADR

On the NLC-UTAG impasse, which remains in court following the refusal of UTAG to heed to a court directive, the labour consultant said there was the need for the parties to engage in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process to deal with the situation.

“For me, the best way would be to go back and use the ADR processes. If a party has lost trust in the NLC, the ADR Act, Act 298 of 2010, allows that the parties can themselves select a neutral third person under mediation or arbitration to resolve the matter. At the end of the day, those outcomes are just like court judgments,” he said.

Mr Adjabeng said it was unfortunate that the matter had gone to court and that the design of the Labour Act in addressing problems such as litigation was not meant for the court arena since litigation had certain characteristics that created acrimony instead of building relationships, among other things, thereby making it difficult for parties to go back to the workplace and continue their relationship.