The Ghanaian worker is far better off under the New Patriotic Party than under the National Democratic Congress, according to findings of research work undertaken by the Cantonments-based think tank, the Danquah Institute.
Speaking to the Trunk News Agency on the eve of May Day, the Executive Director of DI, Asare "Gabby' Otchere-Darko, said the income of the average Ghanaian worker has increased in real value by some 40 percent in the last seven years.
'The last time anything close to this happened was in July 1977 when the minimum wage was increased from 75 pesewas to ¢4.00 in July 1977. But even then the annual average rate of inflation was 116.5%, with food inflation at a higher 150%, following a 66% rise in the previous year when the Acheampong refused to increases salaries and wages,' Mr Otchere-Darko said.
He went on to say, "It is true that prices have gone up significantly in the last couple of months, mainly as a result of the phenomenal increases in the prices of commodities globally. But, we should remember that, in spite of crude oil prices rising five-fold in the last five years, Ghana has performed remarkably resilient."
Gabby went on to cite some statistics to back his claim: "In the 8 years of the NDC, the price of milk increased by 605%, from ¢235.13 in January 1993 to ¢1,650 in December 2000. The price of Club Beer went up by 680% for that period, a kilogramme of bread which sold for ¢327 in 1993 increased by 1232% to ¢4,354 under the NDC. The price of Kenkey with fish, which sold at ¢142 in 1992, was going for ¢3,000, a whopping 2000%."
Gabby said, while the comparative price increases in the last seven years "have not been that steep, workers are for the first time in three decades seeing their pay increases outpacing the rate of inflation, a claim supported by a TUC-commissioned report of March 2005."
The DI Executive Director said, "For example, the price of a tin of milk has seen a 292% price rise since 2000, to ¢6,500 (GH¢0.65); kenkey & fish will today set you back at ¢8,000 (GH¢0.80), representing a relatively lower 167%; a kilo of bread sells at ¢15,000, which translates into 244%. Club or Star Beer has gone up by 245% in price to GH¢1."
Gabby said that even though the cost of living remains high, "The NPP has managed to stem the old disease of constant depletion of the value of the money in people's pockets. The challenge now is to significantly increase the standard of living of Ghanaian workers and this calls for more than just increasing the pay numbers. It calls for structural transformation of the economy and a collective national effort to eschew mediocrity and embrace a total attitude of efficacy."
Though people rubbish the use of statistics, pointing to the "suffering of the ordinary Ghanaian," Mr Otchere-Darko argued that the statistics only reflect what people are being paid and what the prices of commodities at the marketplace are.
"Is it not true that, from 1993 to 2000, the minimum wage reduced in actual value from US$0.96 to US$0.60 or ¢4,200, which increase the NDC left for the NPP to implement? Is it not also true that the minimum wage has since 2000, progressively increased in excess of rising inflation?"
Gabby added, "Is it not also true that the lowest paid Ghanaian pensioner was earning a mere GH¢1 in 2000 and he"s now taking home GH¢22, an increase of 2,200%?"
The salary of the Ghanaian teacher has increased five-fold under the NPP, according to the DI director. "The lowest paid teacher was receiving GH¢410.21 ($582) yearly. Today, that level of teacher is receiving GH¢2,329, which is equivalent to about $2,400 a year. A significant improvement but by no means enough."
He went on to say that, Ghana's per capita income has nearly doubled to around $671 today, with the economy growing to some $15 billion.
Adding his voice to it, policy analyst at the Danquah Institue, Ouborr Kuntando, said, "The force behind a country's development is its human capital. May 1st is world labour day and as such, we need to greet our workers befittingly. Labourers and the working class of Ghana will observe this year's International Workers Day with some sense of optimism as the NPP Government has increased the minimum wage and introduced the new labour Act 651 in 2003. We should focus more on transforming the economy, adding value to both what we produce and what we take home as pay."
Before the coming into force of the Labour Act 651in 2003,the Industrial Relations Act, 299 of 1965 and the Labour Decree of 1967, NLCD 157 were the laws governing industrial relations in the country, as well as other laws scattered in various pieces of legislation. During this time, industrial relations matters and disputes settlement were the preserve of the Ministry of Labour who did this through its Labour Department headed by the Chief Labour Officer.
The Labour Act 651 has consolidated the old laws on industrial relations and is also in conformity with the provisions on industrial relations under the 1992 Constitution. The law has also accommodated the ILO Conventions in a realistic manner especially provisions regarding equal pay for work of equal value, hours of work, and freedom of association among others.
IWD is celebrated by workers across the world, as on May 1, 1886, US workers, including immigrants from Europe, held a demonstration, urging the government to fix eight-hour work in a day. After a clash with the police in Chicago's Haymarket Square, four leaders of the worker movement, three of them immigrants, were executed.
In honour of US workers' fight for an eight-hour day and the anger at the executions, May 1 was declared International Workers Day. It is a day of struggle. Labour unions and organisations will hold rallies across the country for their rights, improvement in working conditions, provision of basic amenities of life besides protection of their jobs and communities.
Ghana is already a party to the International Convention on the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, and to core ILO Conventions 29, 87, 98, 100, 105, 111, 138, and 182.
The ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, made by the NPP government committed her to ensuring the full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Ghana, enshrined in the Covenant, including the elimination of economic injustice and poverty.
Mr Kuntando, however, added that labourers still face hazards at their workplace as there are a rising number of accidents in electrical and chemical, transport and construction and engineering industries while there is a considerable rise in occupational diseases in agriculture on account of inhuman working conditions and use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture.
The government, according to the Harvard-trained analyst, "should force industrialists, entrepreneurs and businessmen to follow labour standards for promotion of safety and health practices at work. The government should also intensify initiatives for imparting proper education and training to employers and workers at workplaces besides government officials, concerning labour inspection machinery."