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Regional News Wed, 16 Jul 2014

ICU Ghana pushes for amendments in Labour Act

Ghanaian workers, who opt out of labour unions in their organisations, ought not to benefit from agreed negotiations, Solomon Kotei, General Secretary, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) of Ghana has said.

The ICU, according to him, would soon make a strong case about the matter because workers, who failed to join local unions, should also not be allowed to enjoy the spill-over benefits of unions' negotiations and activities in organisations.

“This is a major challenge we have in this country because we have a Labour Act that suggests that you can’t be part of a union, but if a union happens to negotiate an agreement, it will cover you. This we feel is not right,” he noted. Mr Kotei told the media on Tuesday, prior to the opening of the Union Network International (UNI) Africa Barclays Alliance Conference, which is taking place for the first time in Ghana.

The ICU Ghana is hosting the Conference that brings together unionized members of the Barclays Bank family in Africa to deliberate on the regional union policies, share ideas and identify training opportunities that will help build leadership capacity in the management and organisation of union activities.

Participants are from Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Botswana and Tanzania. Some Barclay’s union executives from Switzerland are also attending. Arguing further, Mr Kotei said although the framers of Ghana’s Constitution knew why they granted the freedom of association and therefore workers could choose to be part of a union, “we (ICU) think you need to be a Ghanaian before you get the welfare of Ghana.”

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In addition, the ICU says the situation where the constitution guarantees freedom of association but the Labour Act says a worker may join a union at the discretion of management must be revisited.

In respond to that, Mr Kotei said: “All these are not well defined and yet some companies’ management members join unions whiles in other areas they are not allowed. That negotiation is too loose and therefore any employer, who wants to resist some membership into the union, may hang-on that clause to deny others the opportunity.”

Again, he said, the Labour Act on one breath says the employer has a right to draw policies taking into account the constitution of the country and of traditional practices, but employers go ahead to draw policies without recourse to them. “For example we are in Ghana and we have a tradition like festivals, but if an employee writes to his employer to attend his funeral the employer says no.”

Joe Kokele, President of the UNI Africa said Ghana was chosen to host the conference this year because of its progressive and democratic credentials. “Choosing Ghana to host the conference this year, we believe we are in a safe environment and so we are using Ghana as a ‘guinea pig’ to make sure that whatever we achieve would help make people aware of their rights. The UNI is a global union with membership across all continents.

Source: GNA
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