In a bid to ensure that workers are given what is due them, the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) has begun processes to merge the various union groups in the country where they are duplicated within a sector.
The TUC being the main umbrella organization for trade union activities in Ghana, has about 21 affiliate unions, representing the various sectors. However, in many of these sectors, there are more than one sector-union; indeed, in some sectors there are as many as three.
In an interview at the forum on Mergers in Trade Unions, the Board Chairman of the TUC, R. K. Yeboah said once there is division within organized labour in a sector, corporate managers and government itself, in particular, are able to get what they want at the expense of the workers.
Yeboah stated that “Globally, all the unions in one sector of a country come under one umbrella, but when we come here in Ghana we are divided,”
“So, the time has come now for us to come together,” he said.
However, labour experts worry that this may prove difficult; labour union chieftains, despite their often professed commitment to the welfare of their members, are notorious for seeking to maximize the authority they wield and many of them lack financial transparency. Therefore, engaging in a merger that would reduce the power they have, would not be an attractive proposition, and can be expected to be firmly resisted by many.
Indeed, many of the duplicated unions across a specific sector were established because a group of labour unionists were protesting autocracy and financial malfeasance in the original union. Usually though, where breakaway unions have been established, the quality of institutional governance has been similarly short of what had been protested in the first place.
Corporate employers and government itself have often taken advantage of competition within unions in the same sector – and the self -serving nature of some of their leaders – to enter agreements with such unions that clearly do not represent the best interest of their rank and file members and this is the main phenomenon that the TUC is seeking to curb.
The TUC has also campaigned for new models of wage determination, that will help raise earnings of workers in the country. This has become necessary due to the low level of the minimum wage combined with the historically low level of earnings of workers in Ghana.
In 2005, the TUC and its member unions launched a campaign for what it called a a “living wage”. The campaign sought to change the focus of wage negotiations away from individual workers and their families. To arrive at the living wage, the drive proposed that food, healthcare, transportation, utilities, recreation and contribution toward social security should be considered.
Currently, the minimum wage focuses on addressing the needs of the individual worker, without considering the needs of his or her family and dependents.