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Opinions of Monday, 10 May 2021

Columnist: Prince Adjei

Are ECG worker unions proactive on customer service or for their pecuniary interest?

File photo: Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) logo File photo: Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) logo

For the umpteenth time the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is in the news again and it is for the bad reason. The worker's union has called for the removal of their managing director.

According to the union, the reason for their call is that, their MD, Mr Agyemang-Budu is incompetent and lacks the right managerial skills.

Taking advantage of the recent power outages in parts of the country, the union has blamed their MD for the unfortunate happenings.

Last week it declared a two-hour sit-down strike across its office in the country.

The two-hour strike forms part of a series of strategies employed by the union to get its employer- that is the government, to remove the embattled managing director.

Agitations and strikes over the years have been employed as tools for pressing home demands from governments, employers and other state actors worldwide.

The civil right groups in America, the labour unions of the nineteenth century and freedom fighters of the twentieth century all employed this tool as an effective mechanism for righting the wrongs in society as well as pushing for better conditions of service.

In the twentieth century, unionism was adopted as a buffer between employers and employees. This was to ensure that the interest of both employers and employees were served without suffering productivity.

As a result, most countries across the world enacted legislations to guide the relationship between employers and employees.

Of paramount concern to labour unions was drawing a fine balance between productivity and the condition of service of employees.

This was to ensure that employers do not turn employees into beasts of burden but see them as partners in productivity.

In Ghana trade unionism was established immediately after independence and has been operating as such for years.

Even though it is within the fundamental rights of labour unions to demand from their employers better conditions of service, they have more often than not failed to demand of their members, the corresponding work attitudes to boost up productivity.

The recent actions by the ECG brings into question what really the concerns of these unions are?

ECG is an important player in the country’s power sector and forms part of the three distinct operators, intricately woven together - that is generation, transmission and distribution.

Despite it’s importance, one key feature that has come to characterise it’s operations is poor customer service delivery and this has become a matter of grave concern to the general public.

Ranging from poor household metre supplies and installations through non-collection of revenue to irregularities in billing customers, the ECG has become synonymous with inefficiency.

While these inefficiencies have become a regular feature of the ECG and its operations, governments of the day are those often blamed for these inefficiencies.

Interestingly, there has never been anytime in point, where the generality of the workers of ECG and their various labour unions have publicly shown concern about the kind of services rendered to their customers and the country at large.

Rather, any time one hears of ECG labour unions agitating, demonstrating or press conferencing, it is either for increment in salaries, fighting privatisation or demanding a removal of a managing director who is viewed as not pursuing the interests of staff.

While it is a legitimate right for workers, led by their unions to demand from their employer improved working conditions, It is equally legitimate for the Ghanaian people to stand up and demand from workers of ECG improved quality service delivery.

Worker unions worldwide do not only exist to promote their individual interest alone, but also have a duty of care towards their customers.

As much as one cannot hold it against the ECG for the current threats and agitations, it is important that it is pointed out to them that, the status quo will have to change.

Industrial agitations must not and cannot continue to be used as bargaining chip that satisfy just one end of the divide.

The ECG as a strategic entity has many technocrats, experienced administrators, financial analysts, energy and power experts with huge knowledge in what they do and it will be expected that, they will bring their knowledge to bear in order to turn the fortunes of the company around.

The chartered accountants there must make it a routine duty by posting their balance sheets and account statements out there in the public, explaining to the public the financial outlook of company as well as listing what their real challenges are.

The unions must be proactive and be part of the strategic plan of the organisation. They should be seen as part of management and working together to improve on the fortunes of the organization.

It is important that workers of ECG work to regain the confidence and goodwill of the people. While they the workers seem largely not to be happy with their management, majority of Ghanaians are equally not happy with their work ethics.

A change in this direction will naturally be a win-win situation for all but most importantly, it will help improve their operations and ensure sustainable power supply and distribution in our country.