General Secretary of the Mineworkers’ Union (GMWU), Prince William Ankrah, is calling for broader conversation on the imposition of ‘fixed term contracts’ that former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Peter Amewu endorsed following Goldfields operational model of contract mining and its resultant massive retrenchment of over 2,500 permanent workers at both its Tarkwa and Damang Mines.
Describing the imposition as a shock, Prince Ankrah said the policy is at variance with the persistent call by President Nana Akufo-Addo for decent and well-paid jobs.
“We have, in recent times, seen very experienced mining artisanal hands and professionals literally forced to take employment with skewed third-party contractors – thus reducing their previous conditions of employment and salaries by 40% plus.”
However, according to the Mineworkers’ GS, within the same period Goldfields Ghana declared an over-one-billion-dollar profit and entered into new acquisitions. The company is reported to have announced publicly that it would collapse within three months if it failed to implement the contract mining model.
Ankrah, at the Union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Accra, observed that Goldfields succeeded in placing GMWU members on fixed term contracts ranging from six months to two years; however, the company’s other operations in South Africa, Australia and Peru among others is remarkably different.
Citing examples, Mr. Ankrah noted that apart from the usual contractors who work as mine support service companies – such as Africa Mining Services, AEL Mining Services etc. – all other workers are on regular permanent employment.
Another development that workers are apprehensive of is the notice from the Minerals Commission to mining companies of a compulsory eight-hour workday it has indicated will be implemented at the end of September, in spite of the Labour Act as well as collective agreements content.
“This together with the 35% income tax that was recently slapped on workers earning GH¢10,000 or more, makes us wonder what to expect next from government,” he added.
He however described as a refreshing development the resumption of full operations at AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi Mine. The union also lauded the barter trade agreement between government and China that seeks to barter the country’s bauxite resources for infrastructure worth US$2billion. “It is the view of the union that given the glaring infrastructure deficit in the country, the amount will go a long way to fix some of the basic infrastructure needs like rail lines, roads/highways, airports etc. which are needed to spur economic transformation.”
The union in the same breath called on government to tread cautiously because of the environmental impacts and other related matters.
On the issue of the lifting the ban on small-scale mining, the union supports the motion provided small-scale miners are properly streamlined and regulated. On the recent collapse of some commercial banks in the country, the union lauded the timeliness and bold decision to liquidate the distressed banks – but added that the regulator deserves a portion of the blame for its regulatory lapses.