COVID-19 has frustrated contracts but negotiate in good faith – NLC to employers

Executive Secretary of the NLC, Samuel Ofosu Asamoah

The National Labour Commission (NLC) has advised employers to negotiate pay cuts, salary suspension, partial layoffs and others in good faith with their employees, so as to reduce the acrimony that will ensue as a result of frustration of contracts due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

According to the NLC, there is little resolution for contract frustration; and therefore employers and employees must resort to negotiation to address the employment challenges induced by COVID-19.

Executive Secretary of the NLC, Samuel Ofosu Asamoah, said without any fault from either party, many contracts in the media, hospitality, private educational institutions and others are incapable of being continued – a situation that has already resulted in massive layoffs and pay cuts.

“What I normally advise is negotiations. This has come as a challenge, and it faces both parties. Everyone knows and understand what is happening. Revenue streams are drying-up, and there is little to be done about that. So, what we are saying is that negotiations are needed to prevent chaos. These negotiations, though, must also be done in good faith,” Mr. Ofosu Asamoah said in an interview with the B&FT.

He added that the NLC is monitoring situations across the country, and wants to warn booming sectors during the outbreak of COVID-19 not to do anything that would amount to squeezing employees. He believes that players in the garment and pharmaceutical sectors are cashing-in on the outbreak, and therefore it would be heartless if any employee reports an employer to the Commission as a result of salary cuts attributed to COVID-19.

“The sale of hand sanitisers have gone up in price and quantity. Nose masks have also had price and quantities go up as well. If you are in any of these sectors and say because of COVID-19 you want to slash the salaries of your staff, that is not fair,” Mr. Ofosu Asamoah said.

He however reveled that, so far, three complaints have been lodged at the Commission. With this, about 500 people are at risk of losing their jobs. He indicated that the Commission is however preparing to listen to the cases and find some amicable resolutions, but the fear of job loss is eminent even after talks are over.

Meanwhile, the NLC has adjusted its operations to ensure it is able to hear labour cases while protecting the parties in the case from being exposed to the virus. Among the measure the NLC adopted is timing cases – resulting in parties being told the exact time for a case to be heard, a means to reduce numbers at their premises to offer enough space to observe the social distancing protocols.

Also, the number of cases that can be heard in one day has been reduced from 14-20 to less than 10 – while representation at every case has been reduced to three.

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