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23.09.2005 Business & Finance

TUC asked to help govt create awareness

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Accra, Sept. 23, GNA - Mrs Akosua Frema Osei Opare, a Deputy Minister for Manpower, Employment and Youth on Friday called on the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to assist government to create awareness in the Labour Act and to ensure that the Act is implemented.

She noted that, the Act should engage all Ghanaians, because it was a comprehensive social protection document, and a blueprint for the protection of the rights of workers in the country.

She was addressing a symposium organized by the TUC in Accra, as part of activities marking its 60th anniversary celebrations. The symposium, under the theme: "Trade Unions Organising for Social Protection", was aimed at sensitising workers on TUC's continuous relevance and create awareness on the need for the various unions under it to champion the course for a greater social protection for Ghanaians. Mrs Opare agreed that the level of social protection in the country was not enough but said government was doing all it could to improve on the existing Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS). She said the new GPRS, would evolve strategies that would pay attention to issues of vulnerability and exclusion, and thus, culminate into a national social protection.

The Deputy Minister said the new strategy would not focus on the formal sector alone but all other vulnerable peoples in the society. These include the unemployed, women and children, persons with disabilities, subsistence farmers, fisher-folks and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

She noted that with the formal sector, the new strategy recognizes there was more to improving their social security protection, other than simply relying on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

Mrs Opare said government was looking at private actions to cushion people from poverty other than utterly relying on SSNIT. She said government was looking at supporting human resource development, which would provide training and personal development for workers to protect them against unemployment.

The new strategy is also looking at the extension of social protection with new ideas to fill the gaps identified in the old poverty reduction strategy document.

It will also take measures to cater for the aged and those with disabilities. The deputy Minister observed that micro insurance was limited in the country, saying, it was necessary to facilitate it with some support from government and the private sector to promote social protection insurance.

She said Ghana was also looking at labour intensive public work, where government guarantees some months of work for everyone and that it was seeking to learn from countries practicing these measures. These measures, she said, if pursued would help workers in Ghana and cater for their future, and called on the TUC, as well as the public to make inputs into the document before its is finalized.

Mr Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, TUC Secretary-General noted that in the democratic society that Ghana seeks, a solidarity based society was essential to ensure that those, who participate in the political process develop confidence in it and see democracy, as the means to secure economic and social justice.

"Social security vis-=E0-vis solidarity, between the young and older generation, between the healthy and the sick, between workers in employment and those deprived of it, these provide the guarantee for avoiding exclusion and alienation and for creating the conditions for genuine economic and social progress", he said.

He said Ghana has not been able to evolve a social security scheme that protects everyone, noting that, even with the SSNIT scheme, the level of social security being provided was limited. Mr Adu-Amankwah noted that even though the TUC has made some contributions to social security improvement, there was a lot to be done, saying, "We still have some important demands for social protection in our country."

"If out of a worker population of eight million, only 15 per cent have a way to social protection, then, there is a deficit in the country."

He held that, people still needed to work after retirement because the level of social protection was very low in the country, adding, "There is still a lot of room for extended coverage of social protection in the country. This is an essential demand".

To mitigate the problem, he suggested a look at the challenges that face the trade unions, what they could do to raise the level of social protection and factors that limit them from playing their roles, as expected of them.

He identified some of the factors that affected the ability of unions to fulfil their responsibility with regards to social protection as pluralism and disunity that was affecting the cohesion in the TUC. He said if the unions wanted to move away from a weak social protection, they have to unite within their ranks and improve internal democracy within the union, and called for the efficient management of the unions.

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