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Business News of Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Source: B&FT

Union rivalry hits Tema Shipyard

General Secretary of the MDU, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng General Secretary of the MDU, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng

Junior Staff of the PSC Tema Shipyard have broken away to form a new union, and the Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) of the TUC, which used to negotiate on their behalf, is up in arms, calling on the Labour Commission to revoke their Collective Bargaining Certificate.

The MDU argues that the Labour Commission “wrongfully” granted the bargaining certificate to the breakaway union, which calls itself the Ports, Seamen, Maritime and Dockers’ Union (PSMDU).

Interestingly, though, management of the Tema Shipyard has indicated it “can negotiate only with the largest group as recommended by the Labour Act,” and the junior staff have the numbers.

In a November 10, 2016, dated letter, which is in response to concerns raised by the MDU, the company indicates that its senior staff numbers, under the MDU, stands at 22, whilst those under PSMDU number up to 254.

The letter, signed by the company’s Administration and Estate Manager, Samuel A-N Adjar, states that “management would not want to be drawn into issues where both parties could not resolve in past.”

Whilst it represents the interest of the junior workers of the PSC Tema Shipyard, the B&FT understands that the new union has the backing of a few senior workers.

The MDU argues, however, that the issuance of the same certificate to two trade unions for the same class of workers in one company constitutes a violation of the Labour Act (Act 651) of 2003 and could breed various forms of tension that could affect productivity.

General Secretary of the MDU, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, told the B&FT that: “The MDU is demanding a relief for the revocation of the CBC which had been wrongly issued to the Ports, Seamen, Maritime and Dockers’ Union (PSMDU).

We also condemn the use of violence and intimidation as tools in the mobilisation of workers into trade unions; we condemn the emerging trends of intimidation and attacks on MDU members in PSC Tema Shipyard by members belonging to the PSMDU.”

The B&FT has gathered that relations between the junior staff of the Tema Shipyard and their mother union, MDU, have been rusty for a long time, which led newly elected leaders of the Junior Staff Union to spark the breakaway and the subsequent formation of the PSMDU.

The Maritime and Dockworkers Union has represented and negotiated welfare benefits for the junior staff of the PSC Tema Shipyard for over three decades.

The union also gained a Collective Bargaining Certificate (CBC) about two years ago, to represent the senior staff of the same company.

The current executives of the Junior Staff Union, who are now members of the PSMDU, were originally elected into office as local union leaders of MDU.

And the brewing tension stems from the fact that the leaders of the rival union have directed management of the shipyard to suspend the payment of union dues to MDU and the withdrawal of membership from MDU to PSMDU, even as some of the workers are ready to assert their trade union right to remain as members of MDU.

“The MDU was not privy to the issuance of a new collective bargaining certificate to the PSMDU to cover junior staff of the PSC Tema Shipyard,” Mr Owusu-Koranteng said.

“In line with our constitution, any member who wants to join the PSMDU must be allowed to do so voluntarily after meeting the laid down legal processes and not by way of intimidation.”

Mr. Owusu-Koranteng further said that the MDU would use all legal means to promote trade union rights and the right of its members.