‘Curb recurrent labour agitation’

Business News of Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Source: graphic.com.gh

The John Institute of African Politics and Society has expressed disquiet with the growing agitation on the labour front and called on the appropriate authorities to offer the leadership necessary to remove what it describes as “ the festering source of unrest in the economy.”

It said workers’ agitation in recent times, however, had sought justification from the emoluments of members of the political class who served for stated terms in office, and were given comparatively bigger salaries, and cushioned with even larger end-of-service benefits, as compared with the meagre takings of nurses and teachers and other government workers, for example, who toiled for far longer periods of time rendering services to all.

In a signed statement, the Institute said “We have already witnessed the presidential intervention in the teachers’ strike.

The country is now faced with a series of similar unrest on the labour front from doctors, university teachers, and presumably nurses and other vital workers will follow suit. It is revealing that these actions, according to the workers, arise from unresolved issues with the Fair Wages Commission and the National Labour Commission.”

The John Institute, according to the statement signed by its spokesperson Mr Colin Essamuah, was concerned that these agitations were emerging even as the FWC was proceeding apace to complete the transfer of all civil and public servants to the Single Spine Salary Structure.

“ Our governments must deal with these unrests in order to have an atmosphere in which development can take place in spite of the time, energy and resources these agitations take away from the stated programmes of government,” the institute pointed out.

In the view of the John Institute, widespread unrests of that nature must be nipped in the bud by capping the emoluments and benefits of the political class from whom the inspiration to seek their pound of flesh are derived.

“If a reasonable cap is not put on these demands, no government would ever have the resources to carry out its programmes, however laudable”, it stated.

According to the Institute it was time to confront the inspiration behind these strikes that were destructive of national development goals and productivity in general.

The John Institute believed that the only way to curb labour agitation to manageable levels was to completely erase end-of-service benefits for the political class except the President, Vice President and judges of the Supreme Court, ie, those who were constitutionally enjoined not to work again after their tenures have ended.

“All other persons who enjoy the extremely generous ex-gratia awards we have seen so far must be put on a strict diet of only their salaries. Their salaries must of necessity be enough to cater for their transport and housing needs without further burdening the national exchequer with costs that are borne everyday by ordinary workers and private businessmen and women without any assistance from the government. The fat cats in our system must be put on a diet that can reduce the instabilities on the labour front,” it stated.

“The John Institute is aware that this drastic change is only possible through the agency of the necessary amendments to the 1992 Constitution, a possibility fraught with likely opposition from the fat cats in Parliament who are enjoying unreasonable perquisites of office”.

These perquisites, according to the Institute, were in themselves a drain on the economy, especially since none of them had ever retired from active working life after leaving Parliament.

“We are all therefore caught in a Catch 22 situation where those who must lead in the effort to arrest these labour agitations are themselves beneficiaries of these comfortable conditions of service whose existence is threatened with extinction if effective measures are put in place to end all unrest. We are also witnesses to the partisanisation of this real and pressing threat to national development and industrial peace, it added.

To do less is to postpone development for ourselves and posterity even as increasing revenues from new sources are swallowed up in emoluments to public sector workers, inspired by the outrageous pay outs to members of the political class. The leaders of this country must not spend precious time, energy and resources on merely managing a problem that all of us can do without in our forward march to progress and prosperity. We must take the bull of agitation by the horns, and deprive it of its sources of inspiration”, the Institute concluded.