Ghana's textile industry remains one of the biggest casualties of trade liberalization. Ghana Textile Print, (GTP), currently known as Text Style, which used to hold its own against multinational textile companies, is currently finding it hard to stand on its feet.
In December last year, the company laid off 170 workers as part of measures to resuscitate its operations. GTP is not the only textile industry hit by trade liberalization. Juapong Textiles has totally collapsed.
Industry watchers have been explaining that though the Akosombo Textile Limited, (ATL), is the only local textile manufacturer that is holding out against competition, it is also contemplating folding up if nothing is done to save the textile industry. ''ATL is able to produce currently because it has another affiliate in Nigeria, where the factory enjoys some form of government subsidy', a source explained.
On its part, the Ghana Textile Manufacturing Company limited, GTMC shut down in December 2005 and paid off 160 workers. Even though GTMC sought approval from the National Labour Department to retrench 180 workers, it only paid off 160. The rest who are due for retirement from now to the year 2008 have been asked to stay and work together with those on contract, perhaps, in order to avoid paying them realistic packages better than what they will receive on retirement.
The retrenchment package includes a two-month salary for each year of service, whereas retirement benefit is only a presentation or gift from the company and ones social security contributions.
When this reporter contacted the National Labour Department, (NLD), it explained that it was normal that a company could apply to declare redundancy for a particularly number of its employees, and still retain some of them if it wishes.
However, it is required to notify the NLD on such decision. “The redundancy act ensures that a company is not just victimizing workers by applying to declare a state of redundancy, but give proof of being in serious crisis.”
A situation the national union argues is unfair. “The fiat issued by the labour department to GTMC covered all the workers. Why should the company go back to act differently?”
Ironically, the company is currently re-engaging the workers on contract basis, devoid of any labour conditions. They are believed to be receiving or earning far lower than what they used to.
Unfortunately, the textile industry is not the only sector filing to declare redundancy but all other sectors in the country. A source at the National Labour Department, (NLD) told Public Agenda that the unit has been receiving petitions from companies in all sectors seeking to declare redundancy. In a space of two decades 23,000 workers in Ghana's textile sector have lost their jobs because Ghana's clothing industry has fallen victim to a flood of cheap Asian textiles. Now the sector that used to employ around 25,000 workers employs a mere 2000 workers countrywide.
Textile industry watchers argue that if trade policies had been favourable to local industries, the alarming loss of jobs and livelihoods would have been minimal.
Cheap textiles from countries such as China have flooded Ghana's market which has seriously injured the local industry. Stakeholders say the onus is on the government to act quickly to save the textile industry which has the potential to create new jobs.