Awaso (W/R), July 22, GNA- The Ghana Mine Workers Union has demanded that the government should without further delay ratify the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) convention on the health and safety of mine workers.
They expressed dissatisfaction about the lukewarm attitude of both past and present governments towards the implementation of the convention.
The workers said it was absolutely unacceptable to sacrifice the health and safety of mine workers for corporate wealth. Mr Prince Ankrah, the acting General Secretary, expressed the concerns of the workers at the opening of a two-day national executive council meeting of the Union at Awaso in the Western Region. He said they would want to see the same level of seriousness and attention the government gave to the revision of the mining and minerals bill, presently before Parliament, extended to the implementation of the convention.
The acting General Secretary noted that the future of mining in Ghana lies with underground mining and asked the Kufuor Administration to put in place packages and incentives to attract more investments into mining areas.
He said the current price outlook did not support previous arguments by owners of capital operating in the industry that underground mining was expensive. "We, therefore, call on all mining companies operating in this country as well as those who intend operating, to re-direct their attention to underground mining".
Mr Ankrah said apart from the cost benefits, this would also help to significantly reduce the environmental destruction caused by surface mining.
He challenged the chiefs and opinion leaders of Akwatia to prevent the closing down of the Ghana Consolidated Diamonds Limited, the only mine producing the mineral in the country, as its pre-mature closure could have grave consequences for the town and its environs. "We also would like to remind the government that it couldn't abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that the mine is either divested or re-capitalized".
Mr Ankrah also criticised what he said was the selective housing policies of most mining companies in the country that target only senior level and expatriate staff to the disadvantage of junior employees. He said the Union in the coming years would make housing, one of the demands to be placed on the bargaining table. Mr Kwasi Adu-Amankwaah, the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said if the various workers unions were to survive and grow, it was important that they took critical look at how to bring direct benefits to their members.
" Beyond negotiating for terms and conditions of service, we have to use our numbers to do things for ourselves. When our members see that there are benefit packages to enjoy, then they would be inspired to identify with it and contribute to its growth". Mr Adu-Amankwaah again drew attention to the need to promote internal democracy within the Unions, saying, people should have avenues to express themselves and participate in decision-making. He called on mining companies to do more to support the communities within which they were operating.
Mr Adu-Amankwah asked the companies not to only focus on profit but to also pay attention to the development of the mining areas.