Industrial strikes in Ghana – A personal reflection

Industrial strikes in Ghana – A personal reflection

As a Ghanaian with deep interest in the development of my beloved country, I am greatly concerned especially watching labour unions go on strikes one after the other. Strikes seem to have become the best alternative means to drive workers’ demands home.

The purpose of this script is to express my profound frustration regarding the strikes in Ghana lately and to seek answers to the confusion that surrounds labour unrests in Ghana. I am not a labour expert to be able to understand the actions and inactions of labour unions in Ghana. My less knowledge of labour issues have not at all reduced my curiosity regarding the constant dissatisfaction and miss-match between employers and employees regarding mainly conditions of service in Ghana.

The last four years, every Ama, Akosua and Abena has heard and felt worried about the constant threats and industrial strikes by especially medical doctors and University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG). Since the advent of the year 2013, ordinary citizens of Ghana have been held hostage by labour unions in Ghana with their constant threat to strike.

Fresh in the minds of Ghanaians is the week long strikes by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), The National Graduate Teachers Association of Ghana (NAGRAT) and the current labour impasse involving the UTAG. The medical doctors and the pharmaceutical workers have duly warned on their intentions to strike. What are the factors that call for such old fashion approach? What can be done about that? These questions remain central in the minds of well-meaning citizens.

Notwithstanding the rights and possibly good reasons, that call for unions to adopt to industrial actions, I am not only deeply appalled and feel cheated by both the Government of Ghana (GoG) and the various labour unions in Ghana, but I am also confused and wonder, particularly whether the labour unions and GoG have not understood their bargaining powers and responsibilities.

I wonder why the GoG will misuse the tax payers’ money to pay striking workers. I wonder whether the labour unions in Ghana would have the power and resources at their disposal to constantly organize strike, if they indeed, logically enough, had to foot the salaries of their members during strikes. I know that labour unions pay striking workers salaries during industrial strikes all over the world. In Ghana, you go on strike and earn salary simultaneously. This is a huge confusion, this is unreasonable and this is highly irresponsible on the part of government. You can never eat your cake and have it!! Going on strike and paid by your employer is not done anywhere.

If Ghana is an industrial and civilized society whose labour laws are based on international practices, then labour unions in Ghana ought to understand the actions and inactions of their acts. I can without prejudice say that GNAT, NAGRAT or UTAG and so on would go bankrupt if they indeed had to remunerate their members during strikes. They would probably seek other means of bargaining than strikes.

If labour laws are not defined, if GoG continue to remunerate agitating workers during strikes, and if unions continue to be free riders on the ignorance of GoG and if labour unions’ responsibilities during industrial actions are borne by the tax payer, then labour unions will constantly organize strikes as their best tool for meeting their demands. Such practice is both dangerous and costly to the development, stability and economic productivity of Ghana. In such instances, the poor tax payer pays the price in exponential rates.

I pray and hope Ghanaian political leaders, power holders and employers’ associations would seek to understand and design proper bargaining systems to address these unfortunate occurrences permanently. I do also pray that politicians would have the courage to set standard systems that reflect international regulations which will at all times protect the collective welfare of our motherland, Ghana.

A Concerned Ghanaian
Shani Mahama