A labour expert, Kofi Asare Asianowa, has expressed scepticism at government’s COVID-19 economic recovery programme – saying public servants may not enthusiastically provide the needed support required to accelerate the programme due to the quantum of their pay rise recently announced.
According to him, the 4 percent pay rise in their base pay this year, announced last week – the lowest in a decade – has been welcomed with a pinch of salt by labour groups and demotivated public servants who are already living on extremely tight budgets, with many resorting to recurring loans to survive and make ends meet.
Mr. Asare Asianowa, who is also the Industrial Relations Officer of the Public Services Workers Union in charge of the three Bono regions (Ahafo, Bono East and Bono), told the B&FT in an interview that government must find a way to consider the plight of public sector workers.
“We must understand that for the economy to bounce back, the public sector will have to play a very vital role; because it is the machinery through which government policies and projects are implemented. If these people are not renumerated well and they do not get a fair share of the national cake, then you will be breeding aggrieved workers who will not be thinking outside the box to support government’s economic recovery programme. The 4 percent was least expected by any labour expert,” Mr. Asare said.
He added that organised labour is not happy with the increment, considering the difficult times public sector workers find themselves in. “Public sector workers are grateful that their jobs were protected during COVID-19, but they are currently in very difficult economic times. The budget brought new taxes; fuel and transport costs are soaring, and school fees are skyrocketing as well,” Mr. Asianowa said.
He noted that, already, the public sector needs to be revamped to stimulate work efficiency.
“For us to bounce back, it is about government being very vigilant and focused. It needs to take a relook at the public sector machinery and demand the public sector to bring something on board to accelerate the economic recovery programmes being pursued. Already, there is a lot of laxity in the public service because there are people who can be used effectively but for one reason or another are idle in their offices.”
Government, represented by the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, and Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta, cited the effects of COVID-19 on the economy and pleaded with labour to find a middle-ground to support the economic recovery process.
According to government, the state will be forced to retrench some public sector workers and halt recruitment if they are forced to agree with the 10 percent increase for both years. Organised Labour, after some caucus deliberations on the issue raised by government, accepted the proposal of 4 percent and 7 percent for 2021 and 2022 respectively as a means to protect jobs and help in the economic recovery process.