Parliamentary staff threaten to boycott Mahama’s sessional address

General News of Thursday, 5 February 2015

Source: Today Newspaper

Mahama @ NAFAC Launch

Credible information gathered by this paper indicates that some parliamentary staff are planning to boycott and disrupt the upcoming annual State of Nation Address by the president over the unionization brouhaha involving the employees and the Parliamentary Service Board (PSB).

According to our sources, the workers would only budge when the PSB withdraws the appeal it had filed at the Appeals Court against the decision of the High Court.

The president is expected to address Parliament very soon and the workers are not ready to cooperate if their demands are not met before the date of the sessional address.

The employees of Parliament has since 2007 been battling the Parliamentary Service Board over their unionization but to no avail, Today gathered.

This, sources close to Parliament hinted, prompted the National Union to proceed to the National Labour Commission (NLC) and secured judgment in their favour.

And by that move, a deep throat source told Today compelled the PSB to also go for an appeal, thereby prolonging the issues of their salary (workers) and poor conditions of service as a result of not being unionized.

According to some aggrieved parliamentary staff who spoke to Today on condition of anonymity, the PSB does not have their interest at heart, hence their refusal to heed to their unionization plea.

In 2009, workers of Parliament were precluded from benefiting from the single spine pay policy as other public sector workers whilst their working conditions kept worsening as a result, according to our sources.

That decision, Today further learnt, was strongly supported by the unsuccessful attempt by the then Minister of Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Moses Asaga, to cause an amendment of the Labour Law 2003 (ACT 651) to prevent the staff from joining a union by declaring Parliament as a security institution.

But that attempt to amend the Labour Law, the sources said, attracted strong resistance from the International Trades Union Confederation (Africa) led by its Secretary General, Kwasi Adu Amankwa.

The international body, the sources continued, argued from the point of view that the said proposed amendment undermined the provisions stated in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 87(Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948) and 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, 1949), which Ghana has ratified.

“Boycotting the State of Nation Address would send a clear message and signal that we are very serious about our demands. We also deserve better and so we will fight for our rights,” an angry worker said.

The impasse between the employees and the PSB has been a long battle from 2010 to 2012, a development which compelled the National Labour Commission (NLC) to order the PSB to heed to the workers demand after the PSB had failed to respond to several request for audience with the Speaker at the time (Madam Bamford Addo.)

In a letter dated 7th March, 2012, which was addressed to the Financial Business and Service Employees Union (FBSEU), the NLC stated, “the refusal of the Parliamentary Service Board to sign the Constitution of Standing Negotiation Committee offends against the relevant provisions of the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651).

And since the refusal to sign the document was a contravention of Section 10(2), the sources revealed, the Commission directed both parties—the Parliamentary Service Board and the Financial Business and Service Employees Union (FBSEU)—to section 139(1)(d) of the Labour Act 2003 to rectify the fault within twenty one days on receipt of the letter, by signing the Standing Negotiation Committee Constitution.

However, the Parliamentary Service Board failed to comply with the directive from the National Labour Commission and the matter ended up in court.

And in consequence of that, the Industrial/Labour Division of the High Court on 27th of July, 2014 ordered the Parliamentary Service Board to comply with the decision of the National Labour Commission.

“Ever since the High Court ruling, all efforts made by the National Union (Financial Business & Services Employees Union) and Parliamentary staff to meet the PSB to address the issue has hit a snag with the PSB appearing reluctant to be part of any meeting to resolve the impasse,” a visibly angry parliamentary staff intimated.

The reluctance on the part of the PSB, Today learnt, has angered the workers who have sworn to use any means at their disposal to drum home their demands including boycotting the president’s sessional address.

Speaking to the General Secretary of the National Union, Mr. Benjamin Mingle, stated that as far as he is concerned, there has not been any decision to go on strike, adding that he was not aware of any decision to embark on any such action.

He added that it is only the National Union which can organise either a strike or a demonstration under these challenging moments and not the workers themselves.

He said it is unbelievable for Parliament (the Citadel of our Democracy) which passed the Labour Law 2003 (Act 651) to infringe on the rights of the staff.

He indicated that he really appreciates the concerns of the staff and their long patience over the years and wish to urge the Speaker to assist in a very positive approach.

According to him, the Rt. Hon. Speaker, (Doe Adjaho) has shown some understanding to this unionization process since assuming the high office of Speaker of Parliament and strongly believes that the Speaker knows what to do under the current unfortunate situation to avert any unpleasant occurrence.

Meanwhile, Today’s efforts to reach the Director of Public Affairs at Parliament, Jones Kugblenu, via telephone for his reaction failed, as calls including text messages sent to his mobile phones went unanswered.

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