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03.01.2007 General News

Costly Holidays

By Daily Graphic
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There is a statement associated with Theatre Arts to the effect that whereas it is important for directors and producers to take into account the interests and expectations of their audiences in their works, they must, at all times, avoid the temptation of pandering to the base instincts of the audience.

The relevance of this statement to us lies in the fact that there are many Ghanaians who cherish and welcome public holidays but that is no reason why we should use legal means to increase the number of public holidays, since that could seriously affect our productivity levels.

There was once in this country a law which stated, among other things, that when a public holiday fell on a non-working day, the next working day must be observed as a public holiday.

When the law was amended to give the President the discretion to declare any day as a statutory public holiday, there were many who felt we were no longer going to disturb the national course of events by shifting holidays beyond the dates they fell due.

Today, we are observing a public holiday which is, technically, a year old. The Eid-Ul-Adha fell on Saturday, December 30, 2006 but by law it has to be celebrated today, two days into the New Year.

That means that the first two days of 2007 have largely been unproductive. While it is understandable why the Eid-Ul-Adha holiday needed to be observed, we would have immuned ourselves from such developments if we had not passed executive instruments to declare working days public holidays when the dates for such events fell on non-working days.

Unfortunately, it is employers who suffer the brunt of such holidays when they are either compelled to shut down operations or pay double for the cost of labour when they operate on such days.

Indeed, our Constitution, and in particular the Labour Law, enjoins employers to pay even casual workers if they happen to work on a public holiday.

That is why it would have been more beneficial to allow the dates on which these events fall due to be devoted to such celebrations.

More important, all the rites and ceremonies associated with such holidays are not postponed to the new days but are observed on the dates they fall due.

It is our hope that the Ghana Employers Association, the Association of Ghana Industries, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Mines would dialogue with the Trades Union Congress and together make a representation to the government to ensure that when public holidays fall due on non-working days, we allow nature to take its course.

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