THOUSANDS of Ghanaian workers yesterday defied a downpour to join their colleagues around the globe to observe this year’s International Labour Day; a day set aside to celebrate the contribution of labour to the development of the world.
The rain scare which started about 9:00 a.m. disrupted the parade of workers who had converged at the Independence Square in Accra ‘warming up’ for the day with brass band music as as they awaited the arrival of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
When the rain started with a storm, the crowd ran helter-skelter to take cover under the public sitting area and any other available hideout at the square to avoid being beaten by the rain.
In about 30 minutes when the rain sized down to showers, the enthusiastic workers, in their company embossed T-shirts, found their way back to the parade ground leaving the faint-hearted ones to their seats.
When President Akufo-Addo arrived with his entourage, it was still drizzling but neither he nor his team members were deterred by the ‘showers of blessing’ as he led them to take their seats under an improvised tent under the independence arch.
As a result of the disruption caused by the rain, protocol was relegated as the usual tent under which the President sits at public events became the refuge for some of the workers to avoid the showers, as they braced up to listen to the President and the leadership of the workers union.
The security personnel, who had a difficult time controlling the horde had to form a human ring to prevent the crowd from getting further close to the President, so as to avoid any security breach.
The section of workers at the parade included beverage and food producers, media, hospitality, health, education, oil and gas, automobile, transport, among others.
Dancing to brass band and “Jama” tunes amidst blowing ‘vuvuzelas’ at high decibels before the rain set in, the workers displayed placards some of which demonstrated their displeasure on some developments at their various organisations.
For example, while workers from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority displayed placards like “Sack the Transport Minister now”, “Transport Minister Must Go”, “Renegotiate MPS deal”, their colleagues at the Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company Limited had placards like “Stop Importing Inferior LPG Cylinders”, “Resource GCMCL” as the Association of Mortuary Workers had placards like “You want dignity for your loved ones, respect us also” and “We can no more suffer in silence, give us justice.”
Some of the workers, however, were full of praise for the President and the government for interventions and policies which they think had brought positive change to their respective entities.
They included workers of the Power Distribution Company who had placards with inscriptions like “Mr President, Thank you for our job security”, “Thank you for turning around the power sector”, “Ghana is working again” among others.
President Akufo-Addo, dressed in a white shirt with a black pair of trousers to match, addressing the charged crowd reassured of his government’s commitment to the plight of the Ghanaian workforce and urged them to continue to play their role to the development of the country.
“Our nation Ghana at 62 remains very much a work in progress. A lot of things remain to be done to improve upon the quality of our lives in all three stages – the period of preparation to work, the period during which we work and the period during which we take a deserved rest from work,” he told the multitudes who had gathered at the Independence Square.
The Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Dr Yaw Baah, in his address urged the government to equip labour regulatory bodies with the authority to fight what he deemed to be unfair work practices.
In Dr Baah’s view, doing this would ensure that Ghanaian workers were not denied benefits such as annual leave, overtime allowance, employment contract, maternity leave among other benefits.
“We in Organised Labour hold the view that these unfair labour practices are being perpetuated by some employers, who know that the state institutions such as Factory Inspectorate, Labour Department, and National Labour Commission, cannot enforce compliance because they do not have the resources,” he stated.
The celebration was on the theme “Sustainable pension for all: The role of social partners.”
BY YAW KYEI, JULIUS YAO PETETSI & CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS.