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21.07.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Death to the Unions

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I am preparing feverishly for the upcoming elections and since I don't want to take anything for granted, I have been poring over all the newspapers. I need to know what everyone else is doing or saying. Reading the local newspapers is not a very refreshing experience because I get to read at first hand all the nonsense journalists delight in publishing. But it is always worth my while. Take the other day for example. I read about the Secretary General of the TUC, calling on all and sundry to help popularize trade unionism in Sikaman. The article got me thinking about the labour movement, not only in Ghana, but in other parts of the world as well.

After about seven days of musings, I have come to the excellently prophetic conclusion that the days of the labour movement (or trade unionism) are numbered. If it doesn't die a natural death, I will like to see it killed. I suppose that every Excellent One in any part of the world will share this sentiment with me. Take my friend Olu for example. The labour movement has been such a painful thorn in his flesh. Recently, when he tried to increase petroleum prices the unions did everything to show him who is really in charge. Here in Sikaman, if I had not put my feet down, they would have scuttled the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme by confusing everyone (including me) with their lose-talk about how workers' pensions were going to be used to fund the scheme.

Their meddling in politics is not the only reason why I want to see the unions die off (either naturally or by a firing squad). First, I don't want the unions anymore because there is no reason for them to exist. Trade unionism is a bastion of communism and with the demise of that infamous political ideology, I think that all structures and institutions connected with it have no sphere in the human space.

Secondly, I think the unions tend to pander too much to 'blind' populism, all in the name of fighting for the rights of workers. By so doing, the unions often tend to be on the wrong side of common sense. Take their opposition to the Health Insurance Scheme for example. They just whipped up sentiments needlessly by resisting an imaginary move by government to deduct workers' social security pensions to fund the NHIS. Blind populism also means that the unions often don't tend to think pragmatically. Did you hear them recently arguing for the return of CAP-30? It has been said time and again that the CAP 30 scheme is not sustainable. The union leaders know so. They know that it doesn't make economic sense to raid the national coffers on behalf of all those who reach the retirement age, giving them vehicles and other goodies for going on retirement. The fact that the previous regime paid its staff end-of-service benefits and sold off official cars to them at ridiculously low prices does not mean that it is right or pragmatic. Instead of agitating unnecessarily and walking needlessly in the scorching sun in the name of a demonstration for the return of CAP-30 the union leaders should push for a reform of the current social security regime. SSNIT is running a bogus social security programme. Septuagenarians from Bawku are always compelled to go to Accra at the end of every month for their meager pensions, sometimes as low as 250 thousand cedis. If the union leaders think their organizations are still useful, they should 'fight' with SSNIT and make sure that their pension scheme is worker-friendly and retirement-focused.

The issue of the appalling Sikaman work ethic and productivity is also a pointer to the unions' penchant to stay on the wrong side common sense. Our workers like to go to work late and close early. They spend most of their time in the office working out lotto numbers and idling about. I have never heard a single union leader criticizing the work ethic in Sikaman and urging workers to be more serious. They delight rather in demanding increased pay at the least opportunity. Furthermore, the unions deliberately fail to teach their members about the dangers of low productivity – that poor performance leads to layoffs. The unions hate to hear about layoffs, even when such steps are necessary to salvage collapsing companies and corporations.

The third reason why I don't like the unions is that they seem too fragmented to provide a solid defence for workers' rights. They claim to be fighting for the rights of workers but events on the labour front in Sikaman suggest the leaders of the various unions are more interested in keeping their positions than on putting forth ideas and working to protect the interest of workers. The leader of the ICU runs the organization like his own business. His dislike for dissent recently led certain members of the ICU to form a union of their own. Shortly thereafter, he decided to take the ICU from under the umbrella of the TUC. Go deep into the workings of the labour movement in Sikaman and you will be appalled by the type divisionism, factionalism and cronyism which is festering in the unions. How can they claim to be protecting and fighting for workers' rights when they are so divided?

No wonder an increasing number of people don't believe in the unions anymore, a situation, which I believe, necessitated the call by the TUC boss for action to popularize trade unionism. No one should take him serious. I can say without any certainty of doubt that no worker worth his salt – productive, efficient and committed – needs a union to fight for his rights. The unions are only good for the lazy, incompetent worker. The more unpopular they are, the sooner their demise and the better for us.

Excellently Yours,

J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2004

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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