On the wall was the conspicuously clear markings of the intentions of the government, pre-tested on two big occasions. First, by Dr. Nii Noi Ashong, the technical advisor for the Finance Ministry, in a budget discussion organized by the Ghana Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday 24th March, 2021. In the discussion, he disclosed that public sector workers should not expect any huge salary increment for the next few years.
In his submission, he stated that "If you look at the budget, Covid 19 is not expected to abate until the end of 2023 and we are all looking to be tightening our belts for a while and people should not be expecting huge wage increases in the course of the next few years. This is because we don't have money to pay ".
Second, in his address to workers on May Day celebration, President Akuffo Addo announced that as a way of appreciating the plight of Ghanaians in the wake of the negative impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, he had put a freeze on salary increment for himself, the Vice President, ministers, deputy ministers and all appointees of the Executive.
With these two major antecedents, governments intention was then clearer especially as negotiation of base pay for public sector workers was yet to commence. The psyche of public sector workers was fine-tuned to accept any paltry percentage wage increase thrown at Organized Labour during negotiations. A premonition that a Basic 5 learner who has passed through the Standards-Based Curriculum (even without textbooks and TLMs) could with ease predict has egregiously eluded the fine brains of the leadership of Organized Labour.
At the beginning of negotiations, Organized Labour proposed a 15% increase in base pay for 2021 which was shot down to a nose diving 4% counter proposal by government and perhaps, recognizing the negotiating weakness of Organized Labour, went ahead to propose 6% pay rise for 2022. While Organized Labour reduced their proposal to 10% for both 2021 and 2022, government stood firm by their 4% and 6% for 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The sad news for workers which broke out after the final negotiation on Thursday June 1, 2021 resulted in Organized Labour cheaply succumbing to government's 4% and 7% pay rise for 2021 and 2022 respectively. Our labour unions have brutally lost the negotiations battle. At least, in basic microeconomics, equilibrium price is achieved when the customer increases the amount to give and the seller lowers the price till both reach a meeting point, a win-win situation. Sadly, in this situation, what started from a demand of 15% has now ended at 4% and 7%. On the side of government, a negotiation started at 4% and 6% ended in 4% and 7% because the labour unions were weak.
It is also reported that the labour unions were persuaded to accept governments proposal to avert a possible retrenchment and non recruitment of workers into the public sector. For Organized Labour to sit aloof, tuck their feeble tails between their legs and kowtow to threats of retrenchment and freeze of public sector recruitment of workers by government underscores the scam in labour unionism in Ghana. After all, government become the eventual losers because citizens shall base on the retrenchment and unemployment to vote them out of power.
The most shameful part of this poorly negotiated base pay increment is how Organized Labour we're ready to accept governments proposal as long as arrears are paid from January 2021, which would even not be paid at once. 4% of a worker taking a monthly salary of GHC 2000.00 is GHC80.00. Is Organized Labour is suggesting that government cannot pay the six-month arrears of GHC480.00 at once but has to spread it over a period of 5 months? Isn't the over GHC400,000.00 ex gratia per MP paid at once?
Ghanaian workers should get it clear that labour unionism in this part of the world is a scam and leadership of these unions do not have the welfare if their members at heart. All should rise and vehemently reject this worst negotiations ever in labour history.
By Joseph Amofah