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23.02.2006 General News

Workers Dissatisfied With New Minimum Wage

By Graphic

Workers have described the new minimum wage as disappointing and below their expectation.

They said considering the high cost of living, which has been aggravated by the recent increases in the prices of petroleum products, the new minimum wage was not enough to cushion them against the hardships inflicted on them by the system.

In random interviews with some workers, numbering about 23 and working mostly in the Ministries, in reaction to the announcement of the minimum wage, they said, “We expected our representatives to have settled on at least ¢20,000 and not ¢16,000, which is below $2.”

The National Tripartite Committee (NTC), comprising the government, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) for employers and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for organised labour, yesterday announced a new minimum wage of ¢16,000, an increase of ¢2,500, representing an 18 per cent increase over the previous minimum wage of ¢13,500.

The workers said while school fees, rent, utilities such as water and electricity, and the prices of foodstuffs had shot up drastically in the last few months, salaries remained virtually stagnant, thereby eroding their standard of living.

They said although the government needed to be praised for not taxing those who earned exactly the minimum wage, it was time for Ghanaian workers to earn what they described as a “living wage”.

The workers could not tell what the living wage should be but challenged their unions to take up the matter and be serious with the negotiations to get what would make life worth living for them.

Mr David Kodenyo, a teacher, said the level of increase was a recipe for corruption.

“If you consider the expenditure you make and the salary you earn, you are forced to be corrupt, a situation which should not be,” he said.

Mr Kodenyo called on the government to strive to make life more meaningful for workers to motivate them to work harder.

Most of the workers interviewed maintained that although their salaries exceeded the minimum wage, it was going to be the benchmark to be used by their respective unions or associations to enter into negotiations with their employers.

The Head of the Public Affairs Department of the TUC, Mr Kwaku Darko Aferi, said the union was satisfied with the increase, saying it was a step towards achieving a living wage for workers.

“We are just ¢2,000 short of $2 and that movement was in the right direction,” he said.

Mr Aferi asked all workers whose employers paid them below the minimum wage to report their case to the TUC for action.

He said the union was willing to negotiate with the employers to see how best the issue would be resolved.