Workers Taunt Mills

President John Atta MillsGHANAIAN WORKERS yesterday came face-to-face with President John Evans Atta Mills at the Independence Square in Accra, condemning government and saying that the recent increase in minimum wage has made no difference in their lives.

They accordingly appealed to government to expedite action on the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure, serving notice that “after waiting so long, the patience of public sector workers is wearing thin”.

Carrying placards at this year’s May Day Celebration, some of the workers asked President Mills to let them feel his political promises in their pockets by giving them their fair share of the national cake by way of better conditions of living.

Using the yearly opportunity given them at the spacious arena at the Independence Square, the workers freely expressed their views by demanding: “Increase our salaries”; “Living wage is a lip service”; “We are tired of the same old story”; “Workers need relief now”; “Real justice for workers must happen”; “Mr. President, we want end of service benefits (ESBs) restored”; and “We want all boards in place for the progress of our institutions”.

The event, which had Vice-President John Dramani Mahama, Ministers of State, members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the Diplomatic Corps in attendance, was under the theme: “Improved Standard of Living through Decent Work- a Pre-requisite for Sustaining Democratic Governance”.

Addressing workers, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Kofi Asamoah saluted hardworking Ghanaian workers for their endurance and spirit of sacrifice.

He reiterated that the recent increase in minimum wage was largely nominal, considering the rate of depreciation of the cedi against the major currencies and the current rate of inflation.

“There is no real gain. We are likely to experience a significant fall in real wages this year. This has serious implications for decent work agenda and the Poverty Reduction Strategy,” the TUC Secretary General stated.

He called on government to provide decent work for Ghanaians through the creation of employment, worker’s rights, social protection and social dialogue, lamenting that “it is unacceptable that for over fifty years after Ghana’s independence, the working people of Ghana do not enjoy reasonable ratings in many of these social indicators”.

According to him, a large majority of Ghanaian workers receive take-home-pay that cannot take them home, lamenting that even those of them who are employed in the formal economy receive very low wages that cannot assure them of a decent living standard.

He pointed out that the recent payment of ex-gratia awards to some public servants was a clear indication of the discrimination and inequality within the public sector, questioning why some public officials should be paid fat ex-gratia awards while others are denied their end-of-service benefits.

The TUC Secretary General therefore called for the restoration of the ESBs for all workers, saying, “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander”.

Mr. Asamoah observed that the lack of decent words on the political landscape is not good for the country’s democracy, cautioning that democratic governance cannot be sustained in a situation where large sections of the population live in poverty.

“If democracy fails to deliver decent work and improved living standards, the people can easily lose confidence in the political system. It is therefore important that all the social partners take decent work seriously. Democracy and good governance should be translated into benefits and real improvement in the standard of living of the people,” Mr. Asamoah cautioned.

He called on government to take the necessary steps to facilitate the creation of decent jobs for the people, especially the youth. This, according to him, requires that government takes a second look at the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the EPA itself because they have serious implications for the creation of productive employment for Ghanaians.

“In our view, the EPA will not only undermine the creation of decent jobs in the domestic economy but it will also subvert our efforts towards regional integration,” Mr. Asamoah noted.

By Awudu Mahama