The Timber and Woodworkers' Union (TWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has appealed for the formulation of HIV/AIDS policies and their inclusion into the collective bargaining agreements of workers.
The Union said this would help eliminate discrimination and stigmatization of persons infected with the disease, at their workplaces.
Mr Joshua Ansah, General Secretary of the TWU, made the appeal at a three-day workshop on HIV/AIDS, organized by the Union for workers of the Forestry Commission, drawn from the three northern regions, at Tamale, on Monday.
The workshop was funded by the Bill Morris Testimonial Fund on HIV/AIDS in Africa through the British Trades Union Congress.
Mr Ansah noted that since HIV/AIDS was diagnosed about 25 years ago, the disease had claimed over 25 million lives with about 40 million people being affected.
“HIV/AIDS has ceased to be a mere medical or health crisis,” he noted.
“It has turned into a major humanitarian and developmental crisis, threatening to reverse many development gains.”
He said HIV/AIDS had become a daunting problem requiring a multi-pronged approach, and stressed that a workplace programme that focused on HIV/AIDS could make a difference to the individual worker and the company.
“A healthy workforce is necessary for productivity and profitability,” Mr. Ansah said.
Mr Daniel Owusu Boatey, Project Coordinator of the workshop, said the HIV/AIDS pandemic threatened the fundamental objectives of the labour movement since workers infected with the disease faced discriminatory attitudes and practices from co-workers and employers.
He said though most workers did not stand the risk of infection by the nature of their work, some still faced the risk of exposure through their work and for such the disease was a health and safety issue.
He said the Unions must, therefore, try to protect the access to medical benefits and the right to remain at work for as long as the worker was physically able.
Mr Boatey said a national sentinel survey from 2003 to 2007 portrayed that the reproductive age bracket between ages 15 to 49 were those at risk in contracting HIV/AIDS.
He said the outreach programme being embarked on by the Union would contribute to the prevention and spread of the disease through the dissemination of information and advice on risk of infection, voluntary counselling and testing, and access to treatment, care and support for workers living with the disease.