Opinions Wed, 19 Aug 2015

Gov't and public sector workers on conditions of service

Problem of the Issues

In fact, it is disheartening to see, hear on airwaves and reading these days about the issue of strikes, fall out of labour negotiations and withdrawal of some services by some public sector workers.

Every country has a problem, but each of these problems is never the same due to different economic and human resource policies, laws and systems.

Yes, we call this country Ghana but Ghana is not Nigeria nor South Africa nor part of Europe, America or Asia. One always hear people make wrong comparisons to countries they cannot even match with and it can always be concluded as if we constantly deceive ourselves as a nation because we are not who we think we are.

We rather, fake everything in this country, Ghana. Hence, as a Business Administration and Management Specialist, it is time that a person shares his experience to mother Ghana as a quota towards moral development to effect and enable good working environment for economic and human resource discipline to foster proper human capital development to get us to where we want to be as a country.

Why won’t some public sector employees or unions go on strike? They are going on strike because of the high cost of living without equivalent increase in their salaries and wages including a proper compensation package.

All these is judged against what and how the government of the day does things in the economy and so far as the President and his appointees do not walk to offices and also do not join traffic when on the road, probably is the more reason why people in the public sector cannot bear a deplorable living condition.

More importantly, do people believe that the laws of the land are working? And who is supposed to make it work? I think your guess is as good as mine.

A lot have been said in this country, but I have to still add that before a country or any civilized society can move forward there are few key things that are eminent to exist in practice.

These are leading by example, this means, if a President or minister or any government appointee are seen doing what is expected of them in those positions then the society can always learn from them and will listen to them at all times. But a situation whereby within the same leadership you see that they are in support of paying monies to people which turn out to be wrongly paid, do you think the enlightened people will trust the government and is that what the law in Ghana allows and also, is there any law that can deal with wrong doers?

Therefore, in leadership, you have to assure that your words are your words in accordance of the will of the people and that then becomes a binding principle and not a joke. Another one is the enlightened life style government appointees.

The enlightened together with the poor and the villagers thump prints puts people at the top positions and not their know-how and hence, are not expected to manage the country affairs with mistrust and injustice to the very people in the country. The powerful tool and character in leadership is being truthful and honest to the people at all times without recourse to any political party interest or mischief.

Professional Address

From a professional point of view, it seems the nation always fails in its duty in acting in a manner as a policy and responsibility that has an officer in-charged to work in those capacities as their positions demands. But it seems work is always slow and as if some officers are sleeping or do not care about the functions of a government to run the nation as expected. It is the duty of any employer to rectify employees or union problems ahead and then go to them first without the vice versa.

We claim that we have Fair Wages and Salaries Commission which is a big doubt because is this commission a human resource department representing the government or is it acting in line with the National Labour Commission?

In Ghana, we always put a cart before a horse and that makes everything in this country not working properly. If, the National Labour Commission, is mandated by law to act and deal with employment issues why then the creation of Fair Wages and Salaries Commission separately?

All of these are talking about laws of Ghana and where is the professional act which does not necessarily mean talking about laws but practical circumstances and realities when there are labour issues to negotiate with?

At most, to settle labour issues it has to be done professionally and not just by law which is entrenched in the constitution or in other legal books. Because it has to do with realities and practical matters that is in existence and those matters cannot be compared to a law that was written many years ago with some intentions and thoughts.

In this case, human character and attitude is paramount in dealing with labour issues and not just forcing law on employees and unions which can result in serious confrontations. Yes, laws are written as a guide but it is not absolute in dealing with all labour problems without the use of professionalism. I think that Attorney-General Department to take this up to Parliament to do the necessary amendments.

In fact, we normally here the media interviewing people they call labour experts, I don’t think we should be using terminologies by heart, because if we have experts in the country many problems like this should not be happening and not just about labour issues alone. We raise our wings too much but we cannot fly with the little feathers. If you call somebody expert and the same person is talking about the National Labour Commission and the Fair Wages and Salary Commission which I don’t think professionally that should have been the case, it is unnecessary.

The government should have rather strengthened the capacity of the National Labour Commission instead. Establishing so many commissions mean nothing but the expansion of the existing organisations capacities and know-how is what is important.

Professionalism is about getting people who can think outside the box and which means it is not just the written down law which can be applied to any situation when problems arises but cannot be used ultimately in solving labour problems without thinking outside the box. This means good brains in business and administration and management practice is what we lack and not just the laws to deal with labour. It is human beings who create those laws at a point in time, but circumstances do change whereby the law must be changed. Professionally, the laws of the country must be seen to be protecting and doing justice to everybody and not just the existing government only.

Management practice is already a big failure in this country because unprofessional terminologies are used everywhere because the titles we use are not what we should be using because we are not who we think we are. We are deceiving ourselves as a nation too much that everything is now down in the country as political party agendas not the practice of good governance. In Ghana, successive governments could not manage most state business companies and organizations and have to sell them off to private people or investors. This alone tells us that we are not good managers but rather fake or bad managers.

How can one develop a country when the human resource capacity in the management of the affairs of the nation is difficult for any government but rather believes that privatizing the state resources is the easiest and cheapest way to manage; this is a big shame!!! Do we have qualified management personnel in Ghana?

I doubt. Good management personnel is not the creation of positions as a manager or CEOs in organizations or institutions but rather the management principles and concepts to be applied effectively and efficiently without compromising the profession of management practice as we constantly see in the practice of politics in this country, which I even think people use this political behaviours to mean management – it is not the case.

In labour issues, when unions or employees are in talks with government or employers it means they are in negotiation and are not in a court of law seeking for justice or for a rule in a court of law. Hence proactive measures in terms of human behaviours and charater are paramount at this stage. The uses of laws during negotiations unreasonably are not professional because it will not yield proper results.

Even professionally, after agreement is reached by parties the conditions of service or employment can then be amended accordingly. So, it is not just what is written already, but what is deemed appropriate can be added because employment terms may be subject to change.

Political Address

It is unfortunate in this part of the world that we are not able to adapt to principles of politics towards economic development silently and by in complete agreements by all but rather we have political party governments in power and not a government in power. This is a situation that affects good governance because if society cannot see the opinion of one person or the other as an opinion meant for all, then we are practicing politics outside its horizons and therefore can never achieve economic unity for development. The essence of politics is to bring people together to share ideas in unity and agree with what is perceived to be good ideas by all and in common.

Therefore, labour issues in the country is down-played by citizens as they took political entrenched positions which is bizarre because I thought we have freedom in Ghana but it seems we have still not been released by our conscience, behaviour, character and attitude to think positively as a nation by solving problems together as one people. This means we are not who we think we are but rather fake or sub-standard people in our endeavour. Until we realize the importance of behaving together and agreeing together then we should consider that Ghana is not a country but something else.

If you do a perceived equation as to how many Ghanaians can read and write and can understand what is said in English compared to the numbers of Ghanaians who cannot read and write and who cannot understand what politics stands for then you realize that we have a long way to go as a nation. It seems the power and authority of the Executive in the Constitution is not a power and authority for all Ghanaians but for any party that come to rule. This is a distraction to the governance process as a country. We cannot be developed as a great nation if we are too opportunist politically and do not truthfully represent the general populace in Ghana.

Politics is meant to be good for development and growth of a nation but we have got it wrong and I think we have to shut down some government organizations and institutions in Ghana and make way for proper establishment to be done for the name of Ghana. One can conclude that only few people are happy in Ghana and are not struggling and these people only establish programs and introduce them just only to galvanize votes and it is not their core intention of developing Ghana in a way that we all expect.

Public Misunderstanding

The public is now being trained as talkative on media waves and identify themselves with political party they stand for or against. This is so because the country is not working, if the country is working and everybody is busy doing their own business without expecting a ruling government and its appointees to come and give them something to live with, then we are not practicing good governance.

In fact, labour problems is not for public talks on media airwaves but rather for public to encourage the feuding parties by writing formally to either of them with clear opinion and possible solutions for them to consider and not as a political talk show and loose talks that we experience all the time. Disrespect and unprofessional and political stands of people as a passion has nothing to do with employee-employer relationship.

The public person speaking on labour issues by declaring their position have not employed anybody hence only entertaining the media which has nothing to do with employee-employer problems.

It would be important for the public to know that people in Ghana who votes have a party they always vote for but if your party is the ruling government and when a section of the public sector workers goes on strike or threatens to go on strike does not mean you should come out and be lambasting and rendering insults on striking workers.

We are lucky that we don’t have proper labour unions but rather groups of workers trying to come together to solve their employment problems. I say this because, Ghana, a small country but so many name calling of labour unions and their actions are like record dance at all times.

They don’t have the power and techniques and character to go through what a strong labour union will do to get the employer to understand their demands without any recourse to the public. The public must desist from running to media houses to pass comments on labour issues because the public have mandated people in the government to lead and handle such matters, and this is the only way we can judge the current government and appointees’ performance of work over time. But we have turned the nation into a talk show country and comedians. How can a country grow properly with these talkatives?

If any citizen has an opinion, then put it into writing to the affected organisation or labour union for their attention or consideration.

Employees / Aggrieved Party / Labour Union Communication

Are the employees or the labour unions communicators very good PRO’s? This is the question because if they have a problem and they don’t have good communication specialist among them, then there is the need for them to seek for third party support. But the funny thing that baffles me about these unions are that do they actually have a strong union policy that serves as a laid down procedure which is even communicated to the employer since their establishment?

If such is not the case, then there is already a failure on their part as a union if they don’t put in place procedures to regulate their membership and holding members responsible if they appear not in support of the union decisions. It baffles me because you would hear a union announcing an action and some other people will come out from that same union to pronounce contrary opinions to that of the union executives. Do they just assume they are registered as a union and so that is all? Do the members in the unions sign any membership form to show their consent or are such union regulations or constitution or policy made known to the employer to factor it into the company’s policies to be bound by any new employee that they may appoint or employ at any point in time into that membership category? If the union members don’t know any policy or regulations together with the employer then the union formation is only a farce.

In this case, a union has to do their home work very well to make sure that all the necessary activities that need to exist before them is established and disseminated. If you go for negotiation as a union and the employer sees that the union lacks some qualities then the employer will drag the union because it is a game of win, win situation.

In fact, it is shocking and surprising to see that a union will be made to present conditions of service to an employer for discussion. This is a very bad practice and wrong example. It must be noted that, it is unprofessional because the union intentions can be exposed or targeted for dismantling the thoughts in the negotiation process. Because we live in Ghana with fake or sub-standard practices in every organization or institution and it was in the right direction that, President Obama looked into the eyes of the President and former Presidents of Ghana and Ghanaians and said we needed strong institutions to work as a nation.

This means that the institutions we claim that we have are all faked or below standard because of the poor human capabilities; talents, skills and professionalism are not practiced to get us to where we want to be.

It is the duty of every employer to have terms and conditions of service for its potential employees and of which their employees can negotiate with at any point in time if the policies are not working or are not seen as fair to the employees. This is where the employees can only make their grievance known to the employer but for the whole union to write their conditions of service as an employee is a big mistake because they are not the financial authority of the organization. At least, Ghanaians have seen what is happening between the GMA and the Government as an institution. It is shocking and a joke in practice on both sides.

For example, my stand on the issue of GMA is that they have a genuine matter at hand but the problem I have about the government engagement with the doctors is bizarre stand of the government. The issue is that are the doctors in Ghana employed through an advertisement which is or was publicly advertised in the media and journals whereby they applied and were shortlisted and due process was followed?

I believe each one of the doctors know how they got their jobs and if at the beginning, the fundamentals were not properly established and they were just whisked into those positions from government teaching hospitals without them seeing any initial laid down procedure or condition before they were absorbed but may be with just salary and some allowances; then it could be the employer mistake but the employee had the right to ask if proper employment procedures were followed. As you can see, everything is unprofessional and what does the labour law say to the employer? Is there no a law that the government should follow in employing or appointing people? Has it ever been followed? This means that, Ghana is something else.

Some of the doctors know how they find themselves into the profession from the beginning so if assuming it was through a political means and not just because they have the technical knowhow then doctors’ appointment is based on divisions of political colours for members to support whoever got them there without taking into consideration of the union decisions because they don’t want to support the union against their master or party that got them the job.

In the mist of all this, people (patients) lives are at stake. People will die in the process of the fall out, is this going to be the doctors fault or government who is the employer? To answer this question note this, why do we vote leaders in this country? Probably we vote them to take charge of our problems and look after our health and conditions of living. So, if the government is not in the position of resolving issues with the doctors for a single day and a patient dies, is it the doctors’ fault or the government? My answer is the government fault, because our lives should not be played as a joke with whatever may be the cost to fix the problem like “dumsor” or falling cedi exchange rate.

We have to be honest in this country and not just joking with politics against our lives and growth of this country. Let’s face the realities and think outside the box. Should doctors have a union in the first place since their job is about dealing with lives? My answer is they don’t need to have a union and belong to it, but their employer should produce a conditions of their service to them just as the government will deal with the Police and Armed Forces conditions of service because they deal with lives and government cannot continue to joke or play with them in the name of negotiations and people are dying at the hospitals which can never be replaced.

I would say that the old doctors have failed the entire doctors in Ghana since time in memorial, hence, the actions taken by these young doctors is in the right direction because they don’t want to fail others who are yet to join the profession wrongly as they did. Assuming the GMA did not go on strike but all of a sudden all of them or majority of them have written a formal letter each resigning from the position, will the government just accept their resignation without asking why? Because it is their right that they can also resign personally and nobody can do anything about it. I think the doctors must be respected by the people of Ghana because if they don’t have peace whiles at work they would make a lot of errors and mistakes. Hence, doctors safety first. It is a shame that in this country the government of Ghana as employer don’t have existing terms and conditions of service or employment for some public sector workers; because job is first identified and designed, the next is the creation of terms and condition of service of engagement by the employer to be designed.

Government Communication or Party Communication Team

In fact, we have rotten our society to the extent that almost everybody including some of the leaders that are voted for, speak loosely and make fun of the society, I mean the vulnerable. Check the hospitals and see which people are dying and your judgment will be good as mine.

Well, when something happens in this country then you see government communication or party communication teams rushing and hopping from one radio or television stations to the other and passing comments in a form of hash and name calling on airwaves all in the name of protecting the government of the day.

It is sad for us to rule this country like this at least people should give respect and dignity to the very Ghanaians you are ruling. People have been voted already to work for the people in this country let see how they work and take decisions for us all instead of elected people on airwaves talking nonsense which to my surprise is glorified by some government functionaries.

It is a pity in this country, the question is, is it this we call communication; just talking about issues loosely passing comments and judgment and nobody calls them to order?

The government communication or party communication teams should not take Ghanaians for granted without respecting the peace and tranquility we are enjoying. It is time for everybody to be silent and let the people that we have voted for to tackle the matters by making decisions and that is the only way we can assess our leaders but not people outside talking and laying foundations for them to follow. We will not recognize such communications as serious and one will expect the current government to always call such communicators to order including the media houses not to be entertaining calls of such manner.

SSP Policy / Fair Wages and Salaries Commission / National Labour Commission

How is this SSP Policy helping the nation? Have we not rushed thinking that salary and wages payment can be fair and has to be championed by a commission called Fair Wages and Salaries Commission? Because the people of Ghana don’t know or see how much taxes are collected daily, monthly and yearly as a reality to enable them to reason with the government is what is missing, hence no trust. If government is plain in dealing with the people, then the people too will trust and accept the government position on the state of the economy. But when the people doubt what government presents or do not get answers to certain questions then there would always be mistrust.

I personally don’t support the name FWSC because it is established by law just as the National Labour Commission. If anything at all the National Labour Commission could have been improved upon. Besides, is FWSC acting as government Human Resource Management Department/Organisation? I don’t think we have human resource management working in this country but rather we fake or misapply terminologies and think we are who we think we are. Small countries like Ghana don’t need anything like single spine as a national policy because of unfairness and injustice. This is because, one, we don’t have proper national data to effect the truthfulness of whatever we do as a country. Reliability is the watch word; if people cannot rely on government promises then it brings chaos and troubles.

Between FWSC and National Labour Commission which can rule a case without the other? We should have known in a long run our earnings as country before we glossily declare single spine pay policy for public sector workers and adding that their lives would be much better off under this new policy. In fact, for government now trying to say that its payroll is over bloated, how do you think the enlightened ones would trust you? Besides, still with FWSC, newly employed government employees are always complaining about not being paid for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years etc. Why all this? The reason why I don’t agree with the establishment of FWSC is that they don’t keep the government budget whereby they can approve the employment and payment of government employees and this is why they cannot be a human resource management organization for the government. They don’t manage any finances to make policy on government employees. What I only see is that it has been created to engage and delaying employees in agitating for their demands on behalf of government and it is not going to work. Because FWSC will have to always ask finance Ministry about what to conclude during negotiations because it is all about money and FWSC don’t know what Finance Ministry have for such problem as pre-planned. So, they are just there because without FWSC I believe strongly that things can be better because there would be more reasonability for realities. But if FWSC is there to work for the government politics, then it is a problem.

Global Phenomenon of Labour Issues in contrast

It is important to note that in many reviews at least terms and conditions of employment or service are the elements of a contract which help to define the employer-employee relationship. The following information are examples but not limited in a terms and conditions document such as conditions of employment, contracts of employment including fixed term, short term and temporary contracts, contractual change, probationary periods, notice periods and restrictive terms.

In fact, at most employees are entitled by law to receive a written statement listing the terms and conditions of their position, provided that their employment lasts for one month or more. In some jurisdictions the statement must be provided within two months of the employee starting to work for an organisation. It should include information about the standard of behavior the employer expect from their employee while he or she is working for the organisation.

A Written Statement of Main Terms and Conditions of Employment can be any length you want to make them. Though, Legislation sets out details or particulars of the terms which must be covered in any Written Statement as compliance by a company/organisation. It is advisable to be careful about what you include in your contract, as it will be used by tribunals or courts when disagreements or agitations arise to enable them in decision-making process of a case.

The following particulars are anything that must be agreed in writing before an employee can start working for you. It includes the following:

Job title, Place of work, Name and address of employer and employee, Rate of pay, Date the employment period begins/whether there is any previous service which accounts for the purposes of continuity, Hours of work (daily or weekly), Overtime arrangements and expectations, Method and timing of wage payment, Period of notice to be given by the employee and the employer, Period for which the contract is expected to continue if it is temporary; Date when the contract is due to end if it is fixed term, Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures; Entitlement to holidays, How holiday pay is calculated; Entitlement to sick or maternity pay etc. and arrangements; whether a collective agreement applies; Pension Scheme arrangements; How changes to the Terms and Conditions will be managed; Relevant agreement clause (standard) and so on.

The following can also be considered in the statements:

Confidentiality, Rules, Reliability and Flexibility, Mobility, Probation, Expenses/Allowances

In other words the terms of employment are conditions that an employer and employee agree upon for a job. Terms of employment include an employee's job responsibilities, work days, hours, breaks, dress code, vacation and sick days and pay. They should at least also include benefits such as health insurance, life insurance and retirement plans. Employees whose skills are in higher demand will have an advantage when negotiating terms of employment during the interviewing stage of engagement or before signing the contract of employment.

Conclusions and Recommendations – The Way Forward

It is important for people to understand that there is a difference between terms and conditions of employment or service to that of Labour laws. People must not always confuse themselves with these terms. The terms and conditions are in compliance to what is prescribed by or in the constitution or for that matter the Labour Act. If government doesn’t have existing terms and conditions with its employees, how can the government rush to punish doctors by forfeiting their pay? Where is the government right for failing as an employer to provide such conditions? The Labour Act is a law to be complied with by both the employer and employees. So here is the case no conditions of service is in existence, but may be something that was put in place as salary and allowances to represent conditions of service by payroll process is a myth.

The way forward for government in handling labour relations is to act professionally without politicking and taking entrenched positions publicly because it is not part of labour negotiation especially as an employer. Respect and sense of humor is sometimes a trick in negotiations to get what you want and not rubbishing genuine citizens at a ransom for public vilification and ridicule by government or party communicators. This adds flames to issues and can make matters worse.

The government must also correct an impression that the doctors drafted the conditions of service which of course is not new in the government departments and organizations because many a time that is what is always happening, that is, the organizations asking the employees to prepare and present their job descriptions. This practice is totally wrong and bad practice, hence, the government should correct the impression between them and the GMA that the government has shown their conditions to the GMA and the GMA want other terms to be considered in the negotiation process. The basis of this is that upon what terms where they engaged? This is a big question and if previous party governments did not face such demands from doctors but this current government is facing it then it must resolve it amicable. I would advise that medical doctors should dissolve their union and serve as an independent body (just like the security agencies), because their services involves lives and their problems or demands must be dealt by parliament and nobody else or any executive. This will bring better practice in the medical sector. This is thinking outside the box.

The government and appointees must be quick to always call their communicators to order when they pick up labour issues to rubbish people especially employees. This must stop because no law recognizes them to make labour decision for government and even stepping on people toes. Ghana, for All!!! Mother Ghana First!!!

By: Mr A-K Adam


Columnist: Mr A-K Adam