General News of Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Ho, Sept. 13, GNA-A Trade Unionist has slammed the National Labour Commission (NLC) for not taking a firm stand on the two recent industrial actions, which the Commission itself said were illegal. Mr Maxwell Akoto-Mireku Volta Regional Secretary of Trades Union Congress (TUC), who was referring to the strike action by doctors in the public sector and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) wondered if the (NLC) "had teeth to bite."
He was speaking during a visit to Ho by a delegation of the NLC.
Mr. Kwasi Danso Acheampong, Deputy Chairperson of the Commission however, explained that the NLC's stand was tactical as many people were ignorant about the new process of handling labour disputes. "The Commission has extensive powers, but decided not to use the whip to allow people, just as in all cases of changing attitudes, to adjust slowly," Mr. Acheampong stated.
Mr. Acheampong, who led a three-member team of the NLC to Ho on an outreach programme to explain the role of the Commission under the new labour laws, said the laws were explicit and needed not to have been flouted by the doctors and NAGRAT.
He regretted that Parliament, which framed the law, undermined it by inviting NAGRAT to talks and the Ministry of Health also circumvented the process by going into dialogue with the doctors.
Mr Acheampong said the problem arose when "people trumpet morality when faced with issues of the law" and when social commentators pressured government to yield to demands of the striking workers so as to get the important services they rendered to resume. He assured the social partners in labour management that the Commission was independent and could never become an appendage of government.
Mr Acheampong said henceforth the Commission would apply the sanctions regime under the law in the event of any illegal strike, which included seeking orders of the High Courts to declare such strike unwarranted and its leaders punished.
He said the Commission's responsibility was to facilitate the stability and human dignity in labour relations, create a flexible labour market, equity and social protection and consolidate the accessibility of the law.
Mr Acheampong, who is also representative of Organized Labour on the Commission, said the status of casuals, had been clearly defined in the labour law, and warned employers to regularize the work conditions of their employees they now regard as casuals or face the law. He regretted that many people worked in Ghana without any form of contractual obligations on their employers towards them and such employees never complained.
Mr Acheampong said as at July 31, this year, the Commission, which came into being in April, this year had received 169 complaints from individuals as well as unionized workers and employers. Mr Kofi Dzamesi, Volta Regional Minister in a comment said the habit among workers' leaders to willfully circumvent the laws was a canker that must be fought.
The new Labour law is applicable to all employers, including government and all employees with the exception of members of the Armed Forces, the Police Service, the Security and Intelligent Agencies. It also creates expeditious line for the resolution of disputes involving workers of certain essential services, which nominally are barred from withdrawing their services.
With Mr Acheampong on the trip were Mr Paul Osei Mensah, former General-Secretary of Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and a nominee of Labour and Mrs Angelina Domakyaare, Legal Counsel of the Volta River Authority (VRA), a nominee of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA).