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13.11.2008 General News

Labour disputes blamed on government interference

Labour disputes blamed on government interference

A Law Professor, Mr Kofi Kumado, has blamed the many cases of labour disputes in the country on government interference and called on Ministers of state to stay away from industrial litigation.

He said, for instance, that the government did not directly employ teachers or doctors, hence initiatives to redress any grievances on the conditions of service of any of them must not involve the Ministers of Education and Health.

Rather, he said, the director-generals of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) were the heads to directly engage those groups in discussions, because they directly employed them.

Prof. Kumado, who is the Director of the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), however, said the government could contribute to ensure that its policy initiatives regarding employment were served.

Prof Kumado was speaking to the Daily Graphic at the opening of a forum organised by the National Labour Commission (NLC) for organised labour on the topic" "Freedom of Association and Internal Democracy within Unions".

As the chairman for the function, he expressed the hope that the forum would be an avenue for the institution of democratic principles within unions for the growth of enterprises.

He said it was relevant for all unions to be internally democratic and imbibe democratic principles, because collectively that would permeate the country to all sectors.

The chairman of the NLC Mr Joseph Ayittey, in his welcoming remarks, tasked the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) to bring to the notice of all investors the right of any Ghanaian worker to unionise, as stipulated in the law, so that investors did not trample on that right.

He added, however, that the right for workers to unionise came with ensuring the practice of democratic principles, saying it was due the fact that that the NLC had organised the forum to consider the subject and contribute to industrial peace in the country.

In the first presentation of the forum, a Deputy Chairperson of the commission, Mr Kwasi Danso-Acheampong, said the right to unionise was guaranteed in the Constitution, as well as the Labour Law.

The freedom to unionise, however, was not absolute but qualified in certain instances in the law, such as, in instances when employers were part of policy making, decision making or part of providing an essential public service.

He also mentioned a transitional provision in the Labour Law, which provided for the continuity of unions already in existence before the passage of the law.

However, such unions, he said, had to endeavour to "define themselves in accordance with" the law by registering with the Registrar-General's Department.

The Secretary General of the Ghana Federation of Labour, Mr Abraham Koomson, in his submissions, was of the view that the freedom of association and of joining unions guaranteed by the Constitution conflicted with certain provisions in the law, which prevented certain employees engaged in providing essential services from unionising.

He said employers sometimes used those provisions to frustrate workers from unionising.

Other issues to be discussed at the forum are the process of certification of trade unions and the issuance of collective bargaining certificates and the sampling of union constitutions on election of national officers and the removal of national officers from office.