President Akufo-Addo delivers his May Day Address
President Akufo-Addo yesterday had cause to complain about the poor attitude of Ghanaians towards work.
Whiles admitting that “we do have lots of problems – bad roads, traffic jams, high electricity tariffs, inadequate housing and of course, low wages” – he indicated that “we all avoid very carefully any mention of the workplace attitudes that retard our progress.”
“We arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer; we are clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work, because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop,” he noted while addressing scores of Ghanaian workers at the Independence Square to celebrate international Workers’ Day which fell yesterday (May 1).
Aside that, he said, “We have no respect for the hours set aside for work… we pray, we eat, we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone when customers are waiting to be served, thereby increasing our labour costs. We take a week off for every funeral. And then we wonder why we are not competitive.
“The service that we provide in our hospitality industry does not match that of our competitors and many of us have sadly come around to accept poor service as the norm. There is a particularly pernicious attitude to property that we find at work. There is the petty stealing of paper, envelopes, tea, milk and other equipment. There is the reckless use of office vehicles. Employees show no inclination to protecting the things that are in the offices and factories, and extreme reluctance to stand up for what we know to be right in our workplaces in general.”
President Akufo-Addo therefore indicated, “If we are going to make the changes we all want, then we have to start with a change in attitude to work. Government is ready to do its part, and I am counting on you, Secretary General” (referring to the boss of the Trades Union Congress), “to lead the campaign for a change in attitude to work and increase productivity.”
Even though he said “some of those workers of old would not recognise the present day practices at our workplaces,” the president recalled how Ghanaian artisans used to have an enviable reputation around the region, saying, “Our carpenters, masons, mechanics, plumbers, tailors, were much sought after” and that “They took pride in their work and improved upon their own set standards every time they took on a new job.”
At a point, President Akufo-Addo could not but ask rhetorically, “How come that old, very old classroom blocks withstand storms and heavy rainfall, whilst the roofs of nearby, newly built ones are ripped off regularly? How come that we build roads that are expected to last for at least five years and they do not make it through one rainy season before they fail and pot holes appear?”
He was therefore of the conviction that “The workers on the roads, the contractors and the consultants all conspire to deliver the shoddy work that prevents us from getting to where we ought to be.”
Touching on the issue of the supposed privatisation of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), President Akufo-Addo said his government was taking a second look at the compact.
“We are driven by two considerations: we are as concerned as the workers, that the reforms should not lead to involuntary job losses and we should find a long term resolution to the nation’s electricity problems,” he underscored.
In this regard, he indicated, “Government has amended the terms of the concession agreement to require that Ghanaians own at least 51% of the concession; there should be no involuntary lay-offs as a result of the concession; the term of the concession would be reduced from 25 to 20 years.”
He was of the firm belief that these amendments would meet the aspirations of Ghanaians in protecting the jobs of workers and in assuring the control and viability of ECG.
On the issue of illegal mining which has become an albatross on the neck of the nation, the president said, “I have not yet met anyone who is engaged in galamsey, who is satisfied with the degradation of our lands and our environment that currently come with galamsey.”
Contrary to the impression created in the minds of some people, President Akufo-Addo said, “We are not fighting to put people out of work by seeking to end galamsey. Since the Almighty has blessed us with precious minerals, there will be mining in our country.”
He noted, “This present generation does not own the earth, we hold the lands in trust for generations yet unborn and we cannot destroy it.”
In the light of this, he announced, “We are arranging for small-scale mining to be conducted in a sustainable manner because indications are that the galamseyers, those who undertake the hazardous and tedious work, do not in fact, make much money, as they are routinely cheated from getting a fair price for the gold they find.”
Nana Akufo-Addo thus stressed the need for the establishment of gold refineries, which would pay fair prices to the miners.
He envisaged that a sustainable small-scale mining regime would protect the environment and protect the workers as well.
Nurses And Teachers’ Allowances
Responding to concerns expressed by the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) bordering on the allowances of student nurses and teachers, which featured prominently in the last electioneering campaign that saw him becoming President, Nana Akufo-Addo said, “There was the vexed question of their allowances. We promised to restore them and we have. Then there was the equally vexed question of a good number of them remaining unemployed after completing their training. We have started work on this as well.
“I am aware of the recent sit-ins at the Ministry of Health by a group of nurses and midwives who are yet to be placed. I am also aware there is uneasy calm within some occupational and professional groups among public sector workers. Let me use this platform to assure you that my government is your government and we are listening to your concerns. We are determined that, together, we will find sustainable solutions. Ghana needs all its trained manpower to be at work.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent