Editorial : COVID-19 has disrupted May Day celebrations but worker solidarity lives on

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Tomorrow is May Day, however, Secretary General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Yaw Baah announced the cancelation of the 2020 May Day activities and celebration, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason.

Public gatherings are currently prohibited as measures to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 and it is understandable that worker-solidarity will be displayed by conveying messages via inter-personal calls or by text-messaging which is understandable under the circumstances.

ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, said as the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable workers becomes even more urgent. It is in this vain that labour unions in the country are worried about the effects of COVID-19 on the labour market since most enterprises are either considering pay-cuts, or downsizing the workforce to avoid revenue losses.

This raises a critical issue of employment contracts, and whether employees are even privy to, or aware of the implications of the contracts they sign with their employers. In most cases, termination clauses are inserted in employment contracts, and these dwells mostly on employees’ inefficiency or the failure or termination of the business.

The outbreak of COVID-19 will see some employers either maintain or make changes to employee contract by activating various clauses in the contract. The likely changes in employee contract may trigger legal clauses such as Force Majeure in written employee contracts.

In other cases, employers can ask employees to take forced leave with or without pay and other ramifications which do not augur well for industrial relations. Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures and therefore these are expected outcomes, however unpalatable.

Whatever be the case, we strongly support the position of Organised Labour that dialogue is needed to determining the actions to be taken. Social dialogue is the only way we can get out of this together.

A National Tripartite Committee meeting was held in Accra on Tuesday, April 28, and it is hoped these thorny issues were thrashed out satisfactorily.

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