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27.01.2006 Business & Finance

NLC boss calls for rationalisation of public sector wages

By GNA

Accra, Jan 27, GNA - Mr Joseph Aryittey, Chairman of the National Labour Commission (NLC), on Thursday called for a rationalization of public sector wages to reflect "equal pay for equal work". He observed that disparities in the remuneration of employees with the same qualifications and doing the same work had given rise to a yearly ritual of agitations for the achievement of parity with colleagues in analogous grades.

Mr Aryittey made the call at a roundtable discussion in Accra organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD- Ghana). It was on "Making the Labour Act Work".

He said grievances over salary disparities were becoming endemic and resolving them was becoming difficult.

"When at long last the demand for wage increases for one group of public service workers are met, they come at a cost. The salary structure is further distorted inviting fresh agitations from other categories of public sector employees," he observed. He said sometimes implementing collective bargaining agreements or memoranda of understanding agreed among the employer and employees ran into trouble because the Ministry of Finance often rejected them on the grounds that the management that negotiated did not have the mandate to do so.

He said under some circumstances, workers only needed to report to the NLC, instead of insisting that the agreement be implemented, thereby setting the stage for industrial dispute.

He suggested to Government to engage Industrial Relations experts to do negotiations with public employees on its behalf, adding that the use of Civil Servants or Ministers to do negotiations would cause delays unless persons handling such issues had the time, appropriate training, skills and competence.

Mr Aryittey said the inauguration of the Commission in April 2005, it had received 543 petitions on alleged infractions of the Labour Law, the majority of which were unfair termination of employment and that 102 of the petitions had been settled.

He said the Commission was in need of office accommodation, spending close to 40 million cedis, adding it currently shared the present premises with other tenants and that this was affecting the security of its operation.

Dr Kofi Ohene-Konadu of the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana observed that many employers had little knowledge about the Labour Act and inadvertently did things, which ran counter to the regulations.

He therefore advised employers and employees to study the provisions of the Act.

Mr Austin Gamey, a former Minister for Employment and Social Welfare, said the NLC had been perceived as not independent because of interventions from outside by bodies such as the Parliamentary Select Committee on Labour, as well as the Executive.

Mr Gamey said it behoved on Labour, Employers, and the Government to ensure that the Commission succeeded in handling disputes; else the Labour Act would be rendered ineffective.

Mr Christian Appiagyei, a former Secretary General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress, said the Labour Act was not only about strikes and called for extensive discussions beyond strikes since the Act had 20 parts and 120 sections.

"No Economy will thrive with strikes," Mr Appiagyei said, adding that stakeholders should pay attention and deepen their commitment to the positive aspects of the Act.

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