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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Columnist: Blege, Alex

International social justice day: in light of decent work

Alex Blege

February 20 every year is celebrated as International Social Justice Day and the theme for this year’s celebration is, “Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), decent work is productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity.

Decent work is a human rights issue and as such features in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, which states “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. In line with the SDGs, decent work hinges on four pillars: employment creation, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue. The conditions which define decent work have its own advantages. These advantages include: opportunities for work that deliver a fair income, provide security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families; offers better prospects for personal development which also encourages social integration; give people the freedom to express their concerns, to organize and to participate in decisions that affect their lives; and guarantee equal opportunities and treatment for all.

In Ghana, employee - employer relations have made headlines, usually for the wrong reasons; from the government sector to the private sector, workers complain of poor remuneration, prevention of workers from forming or joining any workers’ union, unpaid pension contributions, unequal remuneration to workers especially in organisations that are mainly controlled by expatriates and abuses of rights of workers.

In a news article, “Let’s define decent work” Daily Graphic October 20, 2015 edition, Mr. Solomon Kotei, a trade union leader observed that the laws in Ghana were silent over what constituted decent work; consequently, some employers were meting out unacceptable treatments against workers. Mr. Solomon Kotei was then calling for a local legislation to clearly define and regulate decent work. Although, there’s a Labour Act, 2003(Act 651), there’s so much arbitrariness displayed by employers.

There’s the need for the Trade Union Congress and all other trade unions to set up an education task force team to educate workers about their rights; otherwise, the negative attitudes of employers towards employees especially in the private sector will go on abated. Apart from the employee – employer relations that make the headlines, there’s the issue of migrant youth working as scrap dealers and head porters in urban centres; in mining communities young people are involved in illegal mining, and child labour is rife in fishing communities along the Volta Lake.

In a study, “Towards Secure and Decent Work for Migrant Youth in Ghana” conducted by the Institute of Development Studies (2017), it’s reported that “while Ghana has experienced strong economic growth in recent decades, the creation of new formal sector jobs has not matched the number of new entrants to the labour market. This phenomenon of jobless growth has combined with globalisation, economic restructuring and transformation of labour markets in reducing employment opportunities for many young people. The implication is that many young people, especially rural–urban migrants, find themselves in precarious informal sector jobs”.

It’s then evident that the major cause of indecent work is a consequence of a systemic failure – a systemic failure that has resulted in rural urban migration and child labour.

In an article, “Child Labour in Ghana, the survival instinct” Daily Graphic Monday September 12, 2011 edition page 19, Kofi Yeboah discusses the plight of young boys on the Volta Lake at Yeji, in the Pru District of the Brong Ahafo Region. There’s one thing that draws young boys to get involved in activities that are harmful to their lives – and that is the survival instinct. As much as young people have the right to survive, must it be at the peril of their lives?

There must be a deliberate attempt at promoting decent work through concerted efforts of all trade unions and state institutions for the achievement of decent work for all.

The writer is a freelance journalist. kw.ameblege@hotmail.com/kwameselom12@