Key labour unions meet next week

Geoege Smith - Graham

Geoege Smith – Graham

Key labour unions in the country have agreed to an emergency meeting next week to resolve post Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) migration problems that have resulted in industrial unrest.

The meeting will be within the framework of the Public Services Joint Standing Negotiating Committee (PSJSNC), which is the highest body for critical decisions pertaining to the SSSS.

The PSJSNC, which was created in February 2010, is made up of representatives from all labour unions and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).

The representatives of the labour unions and the FWSC agreed to a suggestion by the Chief Executive of the FWSC, Mr George Smith-Graham, for such an emergency meeting to address issues associated with migration onto the SSSS.

Mr Smith-Graham made the suggestion at a public forum organised by Joy FM on the theme: “Labour agitation in Ghana, the way out”.

Initially, the Deputy General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr Justice Dufu Yankson, had disagreed with the suggestion, saying that some of the challenges were peculiar to particular unions.

However, the Vice-President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Mr Angel Cabonu, impressed upon the other representatives that the meeting could still come off, while the peculiar challenges of particular unions were also handled concurrently in parallel meetings.

The public forum started on a cordial note but later got heated up, with majority of participants in the room, most of whom were members of labour unions, getting visibly agitated with the FWSC.

The labour union representatives accused Mr Smith-Graham of not obeying the directives of the National Labour Commission (NLC).

They also said the FWSC capo was not frank with labour unions during negotiations with them.

Rather, they said, he often allowed negotiation processes to go through the long haul, only for him to later frustrate that same process.

While Dr Yankson of the GMA challenged Mr Smith-Graham that a directive of the NLC given in November 2011 on market premium and other issues was yet to be implemented, the Greater Accra Regional Chairperson of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Mr Ernest Owusu Aboagye, reminded the FWSC boss that a court process to review a directive of the NLC in favour of pharmacists did not stop the FWSC from obeying the directive until the court had expressly said so.

The President of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Dr Anthony Simmons, said agreements reached between UTAG and the FWSC were not adhered to by the FWSC.

The Director of the Policy Research Institute of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Kwabena Nyarko, said the government did not invest in institutions of social dialogue that supported peaceful industrial relations.

Responding to the accusations, Mr Smith-Graham said the FWSC had not deliberately done anything to put any union at a disadvantage.

He was of the view that the challenges were post-migration ones that could be overcome.

The Chairman of the NLC, Mr Joseph Aryittey, while proposing that employers should have a strike plan in order not to be too constrained when labour unions declared strikes, also proposed effective communication among partners as essential in limiting conflicts between employers and their unions.

The Chief Executive of the Gamey and Gamey Academy of Mediation (GGAM), Mr Austin Gamey, was of the view that the many industrial strikes in the country resulted from a culture of indiscipline.

He said the labour law provided all the opportunity for redressing the challenges, only if it was obeyed.

“If we fail to obey it, we will be doomed to repeat our mistakes,” he warned.