From the TUC

Ghana TUC: building workers’ power for decent work & national development

09 Sep 2016, By

As delegates head to Brighton for the TUC’s 148th Congress, we’ve received a fascinating report from the Ghana TUC Congress held last month, which we wanted to share. Thanks to Justice Baako Ntarmah, General Secretary of the Migrants & Domestic Workers’ Union, for his report.

The Ghana Trades Union Congress held its 10th Quadrennial Delegates Congress on 7-12 August at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana. A total of 1,500 delegates and some local and overseas observers attended. The theme of the 2016 Congress was “Building Workers’ Power for Decent Work and National Development” and Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah, the newly elected Secretary General of Ghana TUC, pledged not to disappoint, saying “we are going to work with much energy and passion to help improve the working conditions of the Ghanaian worker”. He replaces Dr. Kofi Asamoah who had served out his two four-year term of office. Ghana TUC is a confederation of 17 national unions together with 14 associated organisations from the informal economy,with an estimated total membership of around half a million members.

Dr. Kofi Asamoah, the outgoing Secretary General of Ghana TUC, called on the government of Ghana to abandon the country’s International Monetary Fund’s extended credit facility programme and invest in a “home grown programme”. Ghana signed up to the IMF’s programme in April 2015 after the government overspent its budget by 12%, but with barely a year left for Ghana to complete the programme, the government has come under intense pressure to abandon it. Ghana TUC believes the IMF programme has failed to address the socio-economic needs of Ghanaians and is responsible for stagnant public sector wages and worsening living conditions of Ghanaian workers.

Dr Asamoah also called for Ghana TUC’s incoming newly elected executive committee members to facilitate the return of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU), which had broken away from its affiliation to Ghana TUC. This was reiterated by guest speaker John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana, who started his address to Congress with a workers’ solidarity song, which garnered much applause, and added his voice calling for the re-unification of the ICU and Ghana TUC by saying ‘Unity and solidarity are hallmark in the trade union movement’.

The President of Ghana addressed several of the issues raised by Congress. He argued that the IMF programme was the best solution for the country and would only pursue home grown policies once the IMF programme had finished. He stated his commitment to ending the on-going industrial dispute between Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and members of the Public Utility Workers’ Union. And he reassured Congress there would be no job losses incurred with the implementation of the ‘Millennium Compact’ agreement, which would inject fresh resources into the power sector over five years and ensure job security.

The President also appealed to workers of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOGSAG) – on a nationwide strike since 27 July – to end their industrial action and return to work. According to the union, the government had failed to ensure workers received the same payment premiums as other public sector workers. The President informed Congress that pre-election budget controls were to blame and reaffirmed his commitment to implementing a comprehensive policy on the payment premiums during 2017 by directing the Labour and Employment Minister to sign a memorandum of understanding with CLOGSAG.

On women’s rights at work, the President announced that his cabinet had approved the International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention which will safeguard the health of expectant and nursing mothers and also protect them from job discrimination.

During his speech to Congress the President also committed to providing funding to refurbish the entire building of the ‘Hall of Trade Unions’ – the home of Ghana TUC, and building public houses for workers, this reaffirming the ongoing social engagement between the current government and the trade union movement in Ghana.

Since the Congress, we’ve heard that the Ghana TUC has secured a 10% increase in the national minimum wage. Despite being less than the trade union claim, the new General Secretary has described the increase as “a great deal.”