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05.08.2004 General News

High wages would mean nothing - Senior Minister

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Kumasi, Aug 5, GNA - Mr Joseph Henry Mensah, the Senior Minister, on Thursday appealed to workers to avoid demands that could force the Government to depart from policies that had helped to enhance macro-economic stability.

He said high wages and salaries would mean nothing if the value of the money could not be maintained.

Mr Mensah was opening the seventh quadrennial delegates congress of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

The five-day congress is on the theme: "Meeting The Challenges Of Sustainable National Development In The 21st Century: The Role Of Trade Unions".

The Senior Minister reminded organised labour that it was pertinent for them to share in the national cause to justify the legitimacy of their existence.

"You have to serve not just the needs of only your members but also the general interest of the nation".

Mr Mensah drew attention to the importance of focusing on ways of raising productivity and international competitiveness if Ghana was to find a comfortable place in the global economy.

''The nation cannot simply afford any tendencies that would lead to instability on the labour front.''

Mr Mensah appealed to workers to guard against allowing pluralism to create rivalry, rancour and disruptions on the workers' front. He gave the assurance that the Government would never meddle or attempt to influence and dictate the direction of the labour unions in the country.

Mr Mensah on agitations by some workers in the country for the restoration of the CAP 30 Pension Scheme, he said: "It is not in anybody's interest to talk about dismantling of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)".

He said the way to better pension was through enhanced pay and reforming the Trust.

The Senior Minister expressed disappointment with the public response to the invitation by President John Agyekum Kufuor for a national debate on wages and salaries.

Mr Kwasi Adu-Amankwaah, Secretary-General of the TUC, said the country could not afford the diversion of resources and social dislocations that accompanied violent conflicts and destabilisation arising out of disruption of democratic politics.

He, therefore, called on "political parties to put their quest for power second to the need for peace and consolidation of democracy". ''What this means is that the Government must not unduly exploit its incumbency. Everything should be done to guarantee free and fair election.

"On the part of the opposition, it also means that they must not employ underhand or violent means to achieve power. In our poverty and harsh socio-economic conditions, we need our peace to enable us address our problems".

Mr Adu-Amankwaah said the TUC took strong exception to politicians who taught of nothing but power and employ provocative language that raises the political temperature of the country. On the SSNIT, he cautioned the Government against treating the Funds of the Trust as part of the public purse.

The TUC Secretary-General said TUC, however, recognised and welcomed the interest of Government in ensuring that SSNIT activities were regulated to provide security for contributors.

Professor Kwesi Andam, the Vice Chancellor of the KNUST, expressed worry about the long leave periods in the country, which is the highest in the world.

He said while the longest leave periods in Europe, America and Asia for example, were 30 days, in Ghana it ranged from 45 to 62 working days.

The Vice Chancellor, therefore, appealed to the TUC to help address the issue if Ghana was to progress to the middle-income level. 05 Aug 04