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27.03.2009 General News

Labour Commission is Broke

By Public Agenda

Story by: Ebenezer Hanson
The National Labour Commission (NLC) is facing serious financial crisis, which has rendered it inactive and if emergency steps are not taken to address the financial crunch, the Commission will eventually become redundant.

The Member of Parliament for Sege, Hon. Alfred W.G. Abayateye, told Public Agenda interview in Parliament that the NLC is presently being threatened with ejection for its inability to pay accumulated rent of GHc500,000 which expired last month. As of Tuesday, March 24 when the interview was granted, no further payment had been made.

Apart from the outstanding rent the allowances of the Commissioners, have not been paid since the beginning of the year, according to the MP. In addition, the Commission is grappling with the problem of money to purchase prepaid electricity cards. “As I am speaking now the Commission has no electricity, they spend 18,000 Ghana cedis annually on prepaid electricity units,” he stressed.

Hon. Abayateye accordingly associated himself with the call by Parliament's Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises that a supplementary budget be raised to enable the Commission to carry out its planned programmes and activities for 2009. This is against the backdrop of the Committee's view that the NLC budgetary allocation of GHc 416,401.00 for the 2009 financial year is inadequate.

“What is most disturbing is that out of the total allocation covering personnel emoluments, administrative, service and investment expenses, two-thirds will into the payment of emolument, leaving just a pittance for administrative and investment purposes,” he lamented.

The breakdown of the GHc416, 401.00 is as follows: personal emolument GHc265,476.00; administration GHc29, 986.00; service GH?70, 939.00 and investment GHc50, 000.00.

The Committee confirmed the fears of Hon. Abayateye when it noted in its report that the NLC is “still operating from rented premises for which huge sums of money are paid as rent. The Committee further noted that the Commission's rent advance expired at the end of February 2009. This has rendered the Commission as tenant at will”.

It again observed that the NLC does not have the full complement of staff particularly researchers and lawyers. The NLC currently has eight research assistants and one lawyer. “This situation does not augur well for speedy and efficient settlement of industrial disputes particularly when the Commission receives an average of 60 cases per week. It is the candid opinion of the Committee that if this trend is allowed to continue, parties to industrial dispute would gradually lose confidence in the Commission and resort to other means such as strikes, demonstrations and violent confrontation in resolving disputes.”

The NLC exists to develop and sustain a peaceful and harmonious industrial relations environment through effective dispute resolution practices within the context of the law and promote co-operation among the labour market players and mutual respect for the rights and responsibilities.

In 2008, the industrial atmosphere was relatively calm although there were few agitations from some public and private sector workers. To enhance worker-management relations, the NLC settled about 300 outstanding cases from 2005-2007. It also received 373 cases out of which 215 were settled with 158 being dealt with.

Similarly, seven collective bargaining disputes involving over 5000 unionized workers were settled through mediation and voluntary arbitration. These disputes involved trade unions, management and employers mainly in the private sector and Free Zones enclave.

With technical and financial support from the Trade and Investment Programme for Competitive Export Economy (TIPCEE), the NLC has developed a computerized management system to assist in ensuring efficiency in dealing with labour issues.

According to the Committee the Commission intends to continue a nation-wide education campaign on the new labour, law and good industrial relations practice. It will also further intensify its efforts to clear all outstanding cases and ensure the settlement of 80 percent of new cases by the end of 2009.

The Committee observed that in its quest to prevent and resolve industrial disputes, the NLC has planned to establish three regional offices in flash areas such as Tema, Takoradi and Kumasi.

“The Committee sees this laudable particularly in the Western Region, because of the intense economic activities likely to develop following the oil find. The Committee, however, regrets to report that no provision has been made in the 2009 budget to realise this noble objective,” the Report noted.

Source: Public Agenda