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16.06.2005 General News

Labour Law abhors secret negotiations - Commission

GNA

Accra, June 16, GNA - The National Labour Commission (NLC) on Thursday said with its establishment following the passage of the Labour Act 651, the days when workers' unions negotiated from a point of secrecy were gone.

It said the Commission had the powers to ask for statistics, figures and all relevant information from all bodies, which even the unions and employers could not lawfully lay hands on to enable all partners to enter collective bargaining or negotiations from informed positions.

These points were stressed during a day's media sensitisation workshop the Commission held for journalists on the operations of the new law which sought to has harmonious all labours from 1940, the conventions of the International Labour Organisations (ILO), Decrees and others including the 1965 Industrial Relations Law. Mr Kwasi Danso-Acheampong, Deputy Chairman of NLC, Mr Austin Gamey, Labour Consultant, Dr Kofi Baku, Lecturer in Law, University of Ghana and Dr Fritz Gockel, an Economist who were resource persons at the workshop and spoke on different topics on the Labour Law were of the consensus that the labour market ought to be devoid of acrimony and unpredictability.

They agreed that the labour law being new it was necessary for workers, employers trade unions to study it and to know what to do with it and that there was the need for all partners to abandon the "old" ways of doing things and embrace the law that would bring economic development and give value to labour and to encourage investors. Mr. Danso-Acheampong said the labour law was "to make the act of the employer and the employee predictable" at levels of their interactions so that there would be no illegal lockouts.

The Commission acting under the law has the powers of negotiation, arbitration and mediation and even to engage in voluntary arbitration and that every partner in the labour arena should be aware of what it intended to do any stage of resolution of industrial dispute. Mr. Danso-Acheampong told the workshop, chaired by Mr Kusi Atansah, Chairman of the National Media Commission that trades unions with collective bargaining should be vigilante in the exercise of duties because workers have right form a union at their workplaces with only two members.

All that they have to do was to have their own constitution and list their membership and apply to the Chief Labour Officer for registration but could not have the certificate to bargain besides the original union, which might have more members than the breakaway group. Mr Danso-Acheampong explained that the breakaway union could only be given the certificate to bargain if a " referendum" was conducted at the workplace to determine which of the unions had more members than the other.

Mr Gamey supported that assertion, saying that if every breakaway union without adequate numbers were given bargaining power, chaos would be generated at the workplace.

He said what could be done to ensure industrial harmony at the workplace was the "small unions" could come under one umbrella of the bigger union, which had the certificate of bargaining to negotiate on behalf of all the unionised workers for improved conditions of service. Mr. Joseph Ackom Aryittey, of Chairman of the NLC said the Commission to facilitate the settlement of industrial disputes, settle disputes, and investigate labour related complaints, unfair labour practices and to take steps to prevent labour disputes.

Mr Bright Blewu, General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) said labour was very essential in the economic development of any country and that media organisations should establish labour desks so that in cases of strike action the media would not be found wanting.

He announced that the GJA would institute an annual award for the best journalist in Labour affairs.

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