The National Labour Commission (NLC), which handles labour concerns of the country’s workforce, currently boasts only one legal officer, one pick-up truck and two 15-year old motorbikes — same age as the commission they serve.
In several instances, the Legal Department of the commission has failed to act because there was no money for filing cases in court.
The startling revelations were made by the Executive Secretary of the NLC, Ofosu Asamoah, at an Organised Labour Forum convened by the Friedrich Ebert Stigfund (FES) in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Accra.
“The NLC relies totally on government subventions because we don’t generate any income on our own. As it stands, we are seriously constrained with our work.
Aside logistics, Mr. Asamoah noted that staff of the NLC are poorly remunerated in discharging their duties, in addition to the absence of regional and district offices.
“For instance, even though labour is everywhere across the country but our activities are restricted to only Accra.
“If we are well-resourced and highly motivated, the NLC will be able to deliver on its core mandate so as to win back the trust of workers.
As a commission, we have the vision to develop and sustain a conducive labour environment borne out of fair understanding and compliance to the labour laws and to make it suitable for investments,” Mr. Asamoah said.
Since its inception some 15 years ago, the NLC has received a total of 8,126 cases from individual workers and worker associations mostly on contract terminations, wrongful dismissals, and redundancies.
About 3,709 of such cases, representing 46percent, have been settled while the remaining 4,417—which makes up 56percent—are currently at various stages of settlement.
The National Labour Commission is established under Section 135 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) with a mandate to settle industrial disputes through negotiation and other effective alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration.
The commission’s challenges have, however, meant that it is unable to satisfactorily deal with labour disputes, leading to a situation where workers prefer to seek redress directly through the courts or strike actions.
Amicable dispute resolutions still a better option
Also speaking at the forum, the newly appointed Board Chairman of the NLC, Andrew Kwabena Asamoah, said finding amicable solutions to workplace conflicts is a better option that resorting to legal actions.
He said out of every ten cases he has been a witness to since assuming office, eight could be resolved amicably, without the need for legal action.
“Unions should be more focused on finding amicable settlements instead of pushing workers towards the path of agitations on the grounds of rights and privileges,” he noted.
That notwithstanding, he said the NLC will strive to make a difference in the lives of the ordinary worker and facilitate smooth labour relations in the country.
On the issue of decentralisation, Andrew Asamoah mentioned that plans are underway towards the establishment of offices in Kumasi and Tamale, to be followed by other regions in due course.
“It is unfair that after 15 years of NLC, all sittings are done in Accra; the poor worker does not need to come all the way to Accra to seek redress.”
General Secretary of the TUC, Dr. Yaw Baah, underscored the relevance of the NLC, calling on government to resource the commission to perform its core functions.
“Most workers are stressed up both in the public and private sectors, and that is a panacea for workplace conflicts.
Stress, coupled with low salaries and poor working conditions for workers, contributes to agitations on the labour front and that makes the role of NLC even more relevant,” he said.