Workers at NLC ‘fight’ management; wants Labour Minister to intervene

Workers at the National Labour Commission (NLC) are ‘fighting’ the Executive Secretary over disciplinary measures targeted at some staff over recent agitations.  

They claim the management of the Commission is intimidating them and have petitioned the Minister of Employment and Social Welfare Ignatius Baffuor Awuah to intervene.

Workers of the Commission demonstrated on February 9, 2017 to press home their demands for the reinstatement of two dismissed colleagues.

The two workers had been transferred from the national headquarters to the Takoradi office since October 2016.

They pleaded for more time before they relocated but the Executive Secretary in a letter to them on February 8, 2017 said: “Your action is not only a misconduct but also a gross exhibition of insubordination. Consequently, the commission has decided to terminate your appointment with immediate effect.”

Some of the workers demonstrated on the premises of the Commission the day after to demand a withdrawal of the dismissal letters and re-instatement of their colleagues.

The minister, Ignatius Baffuor Awuah in response to media attention generated by the protest visited the premises and asked that management stalls any disciplinary action against workers until they hear from government on the issue. 

A letter from the Chief Director of the ministry Sammy-Longman Attakumah dated February 20, 2017 to the Executive Secretary of the NLC said: “… the minister hereby directs a stay of execution of all administrative actions of the Commission with regards termination of appointment, postings and transfers affecting some of the staff of the Commission.”

The workers claim management of the commission has flouted this directive, citing the following actions. The commission has written to the dismissed staff in a letter dated March 29, 2017, asking them to stay away from the premises of the Labour Commission. 

“…Your unwarranted visits amount to unlawful entry of the premises of the commission… You are therefore advised to stay away from the premises of the commission or you will be held liable…” the letter from the Executive Secretary said.

Subsequent to that, the executive secretary has written query letters to some six staff asking them to justify why they should not be sanctioned for joining the protest.

Again, the executive secretary has in a letter dated March 31, 2017 written to the ministry, organised labour and the Ghana Employers Association requesting that they provide members to be part of a disciplinary committee to spell out sanctions against the workers who took part in the solidarity demonstration on 9th February.

“The commission has decided to set up a tripartite disciplinary committee to investigate the conduct of the workers before the commission can impose any sanctions,” the letter said.

The executive secretary has also frozen the salaries of the two dismissed staff.

In a letter dated March 13, 2017 to the minister, the local union chairman of the Public Sector Workers Union Alex Oppong Boateng said: “….We do not only consider these developments as a clear flouting of your ministry’s directive but has raised another level of tension and if urgent action is not taken may lead to an unfortunate situation.”

They are asking the minister to reinstate the dismissed persons and withdraw the query letters.

The Ghana Federation of Labour has waded into the issue with its Secretary General Abraham Koomson asking the minister to act swiftly to restore order at the commission. 

“You cannot understand why a body which is supposed to adjudicate on unfairness are themselves practicing such unfairness. I don’t even see how they can adjudicate such cases when they are brought to their attention. The Employment Minister must immediately take steps to deal with the problems happening there. I think that there is something wrong there,” he told Joy news.

Mr. Koomson says workers are gradually losing confidence in the commission’s ability to resolve labour disputes.

“We are really disappointed at the work that the commission is doing. The commission has lost focus and it is doing things anyhow. That is how come people prefer to go to court with their grievances instead of going to the commission,” Mr. Koomson added.

The NLC workers also complained in their petition that they have no conditions of service, more than a decade after the commission’s inception.  

They also complained that they work under poor conditions with dilapidating structures, among others.