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18.08.2021 Feature Article

The Labour Agitations: What Is The Way Forward?

Benjamin Kwame AmankwaBenjamin Kwame Amankwa
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On Monday 2nd August 2021, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) directed its members to withdraw with immediate effect all teaching and related activities across the public universities in Ghana. This directive was according to the National Executive council due to the government's failure to address the worsening conditions of service of university teachers in the country.

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has called on the government to fix the unfairness and disparities in the salaries of public sector workers or there will be no peace. The President of GNAT, Mrs Philippa Larsen has warned that there will be agitations on the labour front if the government fails to address what she described as the issue of salary disparities among public sector workers in the country.

The members of the Senior Staff Association of universities of Ghana have also declared strike effective 2nd August 2021 regarding what they said was the failure of government to address issues of conditions of service of its members.

The labour agitations in Ghana is not a characteristic of one political regime. Consistently, public sector workers in Ghana have had cause to declare industrial actions in the country leading to loss of revenue and lives in the case of health workers. These agitations are largely attributable to failed negotiations between the unions and government over their conditions of service. In his 2010 MPhil research work submitted to the University of Ghana, Legon, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of MPhil social work, Mr Paul Kofi Amegee noted that labour unrest is a social problem that has been plaguing Ghana for many decades. He indicated that labour agitations predate the independence of Ghana and has not ceased even with the passage of the contemporary Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) that is touted as efficacious in preventing labour disputes from escalating into labour unrest.

The effects of labour agitation and unrest are enormous and have created a situation where some labour unions and associations have lost trust in the government's genuine commitment to addressing the issue of their conditions of service. State institutions like the National Labour Commission suffer a similar fate as they are sometimes accused by the labour unions of being in bed with the government. But how do we deal with the issues of labour agitations in the country once and for all?

Labour agitations and unrest can be dealt with by holding a consultative forum where representatives of all the labour unions will be allowed to present their demands to a technical committee, which will evaluate all submissions and submit same to an independent body which should be established purposely to deal with public sector pay structure. This body among others should consider the various levels of employment in the country, qualifications, performance bonuses and the requirements of every job in the public sector. This will inform decisions on remuneration and emolument by the government which will be acceptable by the labour unions because of their involvement in the negotiations leading to the determination of the final pay structure.

The internal revenue generation mechanism must also be redesigned and reintroduced into the public sector organisations where applicable. This will help some of the public institutions to take care of some minor payments and salaries without necessarily depending on the government for the same.

Government should also consider training and exporting professionals like teachers, health workers, and accountants among others to other countries that require their services to help generate the needed revenue that will help cater for the salaries of those at home.

It is time for government and other stakeholders in the labour front to realise that dealing selectively with labour agitations and unrest in the public sector as and when they arise is no longer sustainable. This is because once the concerns of one labour union are addressed, another arises with demands that are sometimes difficult for the government to satisfy.

By Amankwa Benjamin Kwame ACIM
Associate, Chartered Institute of Marketing (Uk)
Student of English, University of Education, Winneba
Email: [email protected]

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