President John Dramani Mahama has stated that the government cannot meet the demand of striking members of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOGSAG) for the payment of their interim market premium.
He said acceding to their request would completely throw off the budget and make useless the sacrifices Ghanaians had made to stabilise the economy.
Addressing the 10th Quadrennial Delegates Conference of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) at the Great Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi yesterday, the President pleaded with the striking workers to return to work in the interest of the nation.
Members of CLOGSAG have been on strike for the past two weeks to compel the government to pay their interim market premium.
All attempts by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to get the workers back to work have proved futile.
Meanwhile, the National Labour Commission (NLC) has declared the strike illegal.
Commenting on the strike for the first time, President Mahama said the government did not intend to overspend the budget in an election year.
“The three-year extended credit facility transcends the election year. Election year over-expenditure has been the bane of our economy.
“I am happy to note that this year, even though it is an election year, expenditure targets are still on track and I intend to stay strictly within the budget and the Appropriations Act as approved by Parliament. And this is why I appeal to CLOGSAG members to return to work,” he said.
He said the government would consider CLOGSAG’s demand in 2017.
“I wish to assure you that it is government’s intention to implement a comprehensive policy on the payment of premiums starting from next year and I have asked the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to enter into a memorandum of understanding with CLOGSAG to this effect,” he said.
The six-day congress, which also marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the TUC, is on the theme: “Building workers’ power for decent work and national development.”
A new secretary-general will be elected to replace Mr Kofi Asamoah, who has completed his two terms.
The President took a general view of the world economy and said the global economic downturn had affected many economies.
“Yet, despite the world economic downturn, our commitment to exercise prudent expenditure has kept our economy on the path of steady growth,” he said.
He stated that the economy had shown “new robustness”.
He would not run away from the fact that the take-home pay of workers was not enough but sought to assure workers that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
President Mahama said inflation figures had started improving, assuring working people that the government was determined to bring down inflation.
“As inflation improves, the value of salaries will improve,” he said.
Employment, which was a key area for discussion at the TUC conference, attracted the attention of the President too, who said investments in public infrastructure had created over 400,000 jobs over the last four years.
He said as the government aggressively pursued infrastructure development in education, health, water and other sectors, many more Ghanaians would find jobs.
The Youth Employment Agency (YEA), he said, was also in line to employ 100,000 youth under various models this year.
He reassured workers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) that none of them would lose their jobs when private sector participation is introduced into the running of the company.
Domestic Workers Bill
President Mahama said a new Domestic Workers Bill was being worked out.
Besides, he said, in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, the Cabinet had approved a new Maternal Maternity Bill which would be placed before Parliament when the House resumes.
United TUC important
He called for a united workers’ front.
“Many groups attempt to form workplace unions at the expense of the larger union. The cardinal principle of trade unionism is strength in unity,” he said, and stressed the need for a compact TUC to champion the cause of workers.
He assured the TUC that the government would make a budget allocation for the refurbishment of the TUC Headquarters building in Accra next year.
President Mahama paid tribute to the outgoing TUC boss for his great leadership qualities that helped to grow the Ghana TUC.
The acting Chairman of the TUC, Rev. Richard Yeboah, expressed dissatisfaction with some private companies that refused to allow the formation of unions in their outfits.
He said the practice was a gross disrespect of national laws which must not be countenanced.
While commending the government for the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy, he said agitation by some workers was a testament that all was not well with “the spine”.