Government will no longer pay the salaries of public sector workers, who go on prolonged and unabated strikes, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, has announced.
He said government was in the process of initiating the necessary legislation and policy reviews to back the decision not to pay compensation to striking workers.
Mr. Iddrisu said this in Accra yesterday at the opening of a regional seminar of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), on the theme “Trade union unity in Africa: Challenges, perspectives and future prospects.”
The event brought together labour unions from 21 African countries to discuss how best labour unions across the continent could forge ahead in unity and fight for the welfare of their members.
The minister said government was unable to absorb the obligations of paying striking workers and therefore urged labour unions in the country to establish strike funds to pay their workers when they embark on strikes.
“We are encouraging labour unions, particularly those within the public sector, to begin developing strike funds and renew their policies and should be ready to pay while they continue to be on strike because government is unable to absorb the obligation of paying them while they embark on strike,” he said.
Mr. Iddrisu said government was reviewing its labour policy which would be encapsulated in the legislation of the country to chart a new course that would relieve government of the payment of workers’ remuneration while they were on strike.
According to him, as the unions strive to uphold their core mandate of protecting workers interests and rights they should also depart from the militant way of resolving matters with their employers and rather adopt mutual dialogue.
He said dialogue remained the best alternative in demanding the enhanced welfare of workers instead of the use of violence, which often resulted in injury and loss of lives and property without yielding the intended objectives.
“A decade ago, the focus of labour unions was to ensure the strengthening of democracy, human rights and the rule of law but while you work to deepen democracy special attention should be given to the growth of economies of countries across the continent,” he said.
Mr. Iddrisu observed that there were growing agitations among workers and employers and therefore urged the unions to position themselves to work collaboratively with their employers for mutual economic benefits.
On the recent doctors’ strike, Mr. Iddrisu described the action as unpleasant and unfortunate saying “the labour unions should spearhead the training and education of their members to appreciate the importance of dialogue in labour related issues.”
“We, in Ghana, experienced a very unpleasant situation where public sector doctors embarked on a 21-day strike in demand for enhanced conditions of service. I should say any person that has proper education of labour dialogue processes will not go that far. It is therefore imperative that the unions educate their members,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Kofi Asamoah, said the TUC had taken notice of the concern shared by the minister and would later deliberate with its members on the way forward.
He said there was a provision on the matter though it was not stated formally, hence, there was the need to find out what necessitated the strike.
The Director of the Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the International Labour Organisation, Ms. Maria Helena Andre, asked trade unions in Africa to unite and fight for their common interest.
She assured of ILO’s support for African labour unions but called for continuous co-operation among members to lead to a new era where the rights and interests of workers would be highly respected.
By Charles Amankwa & Emelia Enyonam Kuleke