Business News of Tuesday, 18 February 2020
Source: Business & Financial Times
The HR officer at Goldfields Ghana, Mr. Alex Simpson, made a statement that appears quite controversial when taken out of context.
Addressing the second edition of the ‘HR Professional Brunch’ held in Accra, Simpson urged Human Resource (HR) Practitioners in Ghana to work toward achieving a non- unionised working environment for their firms.
Interestingly, the Constitution (1992) provides for freedom of association (forming trade unions) so citizens can ensure protection of their interests.
The Labour Act (Act 651) defines a trade union as any association of workers, the principal purposes of which is to promote and protect their economic and social interests. Therefore, the Labour Act allows workers and employers to establish and join unions.
“Two or more workers employed in the same undertaking may form a union, and two or more employers (each employing at least 15 workers) in the same industry or trade may form or join the same organization”. The Ghana Employer’s Association (GEA) is one such employer union.
Upon what basis, then is MR. Simpson asking HR practitioners to work toward achieving non-unionised working environments? That is, if one is to interpret his words literally.
However, to be fair to Simpson, he said staff will not feel the need to form unions if management engages them regularly and resolves their issues early and amicably. That is totally different from urging HR practitioners to work towards achieving non-unionised working environments since it runs at variance with the 1992 constitution of Ghana, as well as the Universal Human Rights Charter.
In essence, Simpson was telling HR practitioners that if management regularly meets and resolves worker issues in a timeous manner, there would be no need for workers to join or form unions to protect their interests because management would have taken their concerns / interests to heart, and work toward resolving them.
This is largely true to extent, though that does not mean they should prohibit the formation of trade labour unions since workers themselves are the best protectors of their own interests. Labour unions need not necessarily be antagonistic to management: they rather exist primarily to protect worker-rights / interests – which are violated far too often to risk them being without means of ensuring their right to protection.
For harmonious industrial relations, the rift between worker-unions and management must be reduced to the barest minimum; and this can be achieved in various forms. Leadership of worker-unions must have a healthy rapport with management and vice-versa.
Preventing workers from forming unions or associations is denying them their basic rights – and needs to be taken seriously and drummed home.