Recognizing the strength of workers

Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Minister Designate for Employment and Labour Relations

2021 May Day celebrations

1st of May popular known as ‘May Day’ or Labour Day has become a yearly commemoration across the World to celebrate workers and to promote labour rights. It has attained global significance and is commemorated as a National Public Holiday across the globe.

The decision to commemorate May Day as a global event is as a result of the recognition of the strength of workers’ movements. The theme for this years’ ‘May Day’ Celebration in Ghana is “Recognizing the strength of Ghanaian Workers”.

Ghana has demonstrated her commitment to the principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining by ratifying the appropriate ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining. The economic and social rights of workers as well as their right to freely associate and negotiate their terms and conditions of work with their employers have been enshrined in our National Constitution and the Labour Act, 2003 (ACT 651). Again, Ghana has promulgated three Labour Legislative Instruments; Labour Regulations, 2005 (LI 1822); Labour Regulations, 2007 (LI 1833); and the Labour (Domestic Workers) Regulations, 2020 (LI 2408).  These pieces of legislation provide the legal and institutional framework for regulating the activities of labour movements as well as employment relationships in the country.

Trade Union Pluralism

Currently there are over 100 certified trade unions operating in Ghana and negotiating on behalf of various classes of workers. These are either National Unions or Enterprise Based Unions across various sectors of the Ghanaian economy. It is imperative to mention that there are three Trade Union Federations (Trade Union Centers) in the country. These are the Ghana Trades Union Congress; the Ghana Federation of Labour and the Forum for Public Sector Associations and Unions (THE FORUM) serving as umbrella bodies for their affiliate unions.

The FORUM is the latest Trade Union Center with the largest representation of Public Sector Workers, and it includes CLOGSAG, Ghana Medical Association, Ghana National Association of Teachers, National Association of Graduate Teachers, Coalition of Concerned Teachers, Ghana, Judicial Service Staff Association and the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association.

Government deserves commendation for supporting and promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining amongst workers. Ghanaian Workers are enjoying trade union pluralism without restrictions as enshrined in the National Constitution and Labour Laws. Again, the regular engagements between Government and Organised Labour is an indication of government’s recognition and respect for the Ghanaian worker. This has culminated in the Industrial harmony being experienced on the labour front.   

Activities of the National Tripartite Committee in the Midst of the COVID 19 Pandemic

The Law has institutionalized the National Tripartite Committee with representation from Government, Organized Labour and Employers. The Tripartite body meets to deliberate and take decisions relative to labour and employment issues in the country.

The determination of the National Daily Minimum Wage is one of the functions of the Tripartite Committee. The Committee is also mandated to advise on employment and labour market issues including the labour laws; Industrial relations and occupational safety and health and general socio-economic trends in the country. Government in consultation with the Social Partners (on a yearly basis) issues Communiques in respect of the National Daily Minimum Wage.

Consolidating the gains in a COVID 19 Era

It is important to mention that following the outbreak of COVID 19 in the country, the National Tripartite Committee issued a three paged communique on safety measures to curtail the spread of COVID 19 at workplaces.

The devastating effects of COVID 19 across the globe cannot be over emphasized. Ghana recorded several job losses coupled with the loss of precious human lives and skills. However, the pandemic has also created some job opportunities for the youth particularly in the Gig Economy.

Online jobs have thrived coupled with the development of software applications. The emerging ‘Gig’ economy has created a new set of workers with their own unique challenges. Government and its Social Partners have resolved to protect the rights of workers in the gig economy and to prevent abuses and exploitation while ensuring the sustainability of employment and jobs in this emerging industry.

Government’s efforts at economic recovery are evident. The provision of stimulus packages by Government for businesses to recover from the effects of COVID 19 is commendable since the livelihoods of Ghanaian workers are linked to the survival of their employing establishments. Government has supplied PPEs to workers in addition to the Safety protocols that are aimed at making the work environment safe. In 2020, the Ministry of Employment commissioned a survey to establish the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on employment and job losses. This survey contributed empirical and scientific evidence for providing stimulus support to businesses that were adversely affected by the pandemic.

Celebrating Front Line Health Workers in the COVID 19 era

On this special occasion it is proper for us to celebrate our frontline health workers who have sacrificed their lives, energy and time to work under difficult conditions in this era of the COVID 19 outbreak.

We salute all workers and pray that the Good Lord will grant perfect rest to the souls of all workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.

And to all gallant Ghanaian workers we say “Ayekoo”

The writers are staff from the MELR and Labour Department.

Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Minister for Employment and Labour Relation

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