End IMF deal ‘as soon as possible’ – Organised Labour restores opposition to bailout

Ghana Politics

Politics / Ghana Politics 41 Views

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is kicking against a possible renewal of the three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF) with the International Monetary Fund.

An IMF team recently concluded the review of data on the economy with the aim of using the findings to reach a conclusion on the direction Ghana should take on the facility.

Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, has also said the Fund’s conclusions will guide discussions on the programme, however, there are strong indications that the facility will be extended.

Related: Gov’t to decide whether to extend IMF deal

Osafo Marfo vetting

Yaw Osafo-Marfo

Ghana entered into the three-year program with the IMF on April 2015 for a total amount 918 million US dollars which was expected to be disbursed in eight equal tranches.

The programme aims to restore debt sustainability and macroeconomic stability in the country to foster a return to high growth and job creation while protecting social spending.

In a release following its General Council discussions, the TUC suggests that austere conditions attached to the deal will suppress employment in the public sector.

At the General Council meeting held on June 29 and June 30 this year, the labour unions agreed that the policies outlined in the 2017 Budget are good enough for job creation and economic growth, hence the need to shelve plans for the renewal of the IMF bailout.

“We still hold the view that the IMF-sponsored austerity measures will not help us to achieve [economic prosperity]. Instead, government should work towards ending the programme as soon as possible and consider the ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 122 (1964) concerning Employment and Economic Development Policy to guide our social and economic development,” TUC said in the release.

The TUC has been a strong critic of the IMF deal since it was signed in 2015.

Related: TUC asks government to abandon IMF programme

The release, titled Mid-Year Review of the Socio-Economic and Political situation in Ghana, however, lauded the government for including Ghanaian-owned private sector companies in the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) concession arrangement.

But the labour organisation said it was worried about government’s refusal to have a stake in the deal.

“We believe strongly that the state must hold majority shares in an important and strategic asset like ECG,” the release signed by TUC General Secretary, Yaw Baah, said.

Dr Yaw Baah - TUC General Sec

Yaw Baah

Below is the full release that also touched on the illegal mining activities, working conditions among others.

MID-YEAR REVIEW OF THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL SITUATION IN GHANA The Trades Union Congress (Ghana) held its general council meeting in Accra on Thursday and Friday, 29  th and 30th June, 2017.

As usual, the Council deliberated on social, economic and political developments in the country with special focus on the labour market, employment situation, and working conditions. Other important issues that received Council’s attention include social security, illegal mining, politicization of the public service, and privatization of Electricity Company of Ghana.

Positive Trends

The Council observed with great satisfaction the peaceful handing over of power from the NDC Government, led by Former President John Dramani Mahama, to the NPP Government under the leadership of President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo in January, 2017.

The peaceful transition has laid a very strong foundation for the positive trends we are witnessing in the economy since the beginning of the year. Inflation is declining at a rapid rate. Interest rates are also declining and the Ghana Cedi has been quite stable. The economy is expected to grow at nearly 7 percent this year and inflation is expected to decline to single digit by next year.

Already, the international rating agencies have predicted a very positive outlook for our economy in the medium term.Ghana has already managed to borrow over $2 billion dollars on the international market. These are indications that the international community is gradually but surely developing confidence in our economy. Reports indicate that there is the real possibility of attracting billions of dollars from international investors notably from China into our economy in the next couple of years.

It was against this background that the Council expressed the hope that the NPP Government, under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, would mobilize all our natural and human resourcesto bring prosperity to all parts of the country.

Employment Creation

Council recalled TUC’s inputs into the 2017 Budget and Economic Policy and the comments submitted to the Minister for Finance after the Budget was presented to Parliament. In both submissions, we praised government for its policies toward employment creation and pledged our support for all such initiatives.

We still believe that the policies outlined in the 2017 Budget and Economic Policy document can potentially lead to great prosperity in the country. Our expectation is that they will be vigorously pursued to improve the economic and social conditions of all Ghanaians, irrespective of their location.

We still hold the view that the IMF-sponsored austerity measures will not help us to achieve this aim. Instead, government should work towards ending the programme as soon as possible and consider the ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 122 (1964) concerning Employment and Economic Development Policy to guide our social and economic development.

Working Conditions

Council expressed worry about the alarming rate at which businesses in Ghana are relying on non-standard forms of employment including casual work, outsourcing, and short-term employment contracts.

Increasingly, workers are being hired on short-term contract basis by third party employment agencies. Those employed are mostly young and unskilled. Some of these agencies are taking advantage of the weak labour administration institutions to abuse the rights of these young and vulnerable workers. Recently, a young man who is only 21 years old lost his right arm in the course of work. According to the Labour Department he was employed by a third party but not directly by the company where was working for. There is confusion about who is responsible for his handicap and who should pay compensation. The Mawarko case is another typical case where a manager blatantly abused the rights of a female worker.

These practices should not be allowed to continue. Once again, we call on government to provide resources to the relevant labour administration institutions to deal with those who are abusing workers’ rights. The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and its agencies, the National Labour Commission (NLC), the Labour Department, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), and the Factories Inspectorate cannot effectively deal with the ever-increasing labour-related issues in their current weak state.

Politicization of the Public Service

Council expressed a grave concern about the political vigilantism and the violent takeover of public organizations by alleged party foot soldiers of the New Patriotic Party as well as dismissals and selective transfers in the public service. This practice is simply dangerous and unacceptable.

Public servants,including chief executives and staff of a number of public service institutions,have either been removed without regard to established procedures,administrative norms and good corporate governance practices. Those affected are Ghanaians who might have been appointed based on their qualifications, skills and competences. The selective dismissals and transfers in the public service smacks of political vendetta especially when those removed are replaced by people whose only qualification is political party membership. All Ghanaian citizens must feel part of this society in order that we can all contribute our quota towards the social and economic development of our country based on our abilities, talents, skills, and competences and not on political party affiliation.

We are aware of the long history of such political vendetta in Ghana. But if the current trend continues we risk creating further divisions and political instability in our society which has the potential of shattering our hope for future prosperity.

We expect the NPP Government under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to work towards uniting all the people of Ghana and mobilising all of us for economic and social development.

Illegal and Irresponsible Mining

The TUC has been following the debate about illegal mining with keen interest. We commend government for the initiative and the effort towards eradicating illegal mining in Ghana once and for all. The Ghanaian media also deserve commendation for their sustained campaign against illegal mining.

But we should bear in mind that illegal mining can be totally eradicated only if we approach it from employment and social development perspective with law enforcement only as a means of ensuring discipline within the sector.

We need to pay more attention to the lack of economic opportunities, poverty and inequality in mining areas. There is no excuse for engaging in any illegal activity but it will be extremely difficult to eradicate illegal mining if those engaged in the activity cannot find other alternative means for survival.

Government, chiefs and leaders in mining communities, the large multinational mining companies and civil society organisations must work together to agree on a more comprehensive plan to stop illegal mining in Ghana. The TUC including its affiliate in the mining sector, the Ghana Mineworkers Union, is willing to play its role in the national effort toward total eradication of illegal mining in Ghana. We must by all means save our water bodies and our environment from the wanton destruction we have witnessed in some communities across the country.

Efforts must now be geared toward the formalisation of the informal mining sector based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Recommendation 204 (2015) on Transition from the Informal to Formal Economy. We also call on government to ratify ILO conventions and protocols concerning occupational health, safety and environment (OSHE) to protect mineworkers.

As we focus our attention on the eradication of illegal small-scale mining, we should never lose sight of the damage caused by irresponsible mining by some of the big multinational mining companies operating in Ghana. Our regulatory institutions in the sector must be strengthened to ensure that our natural resources are exploited to the benefit of the citizens of Ghana.

Privatisation of Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG)

The Council welcomed government’s efforts toward the introduction of Ghanaian-owned private sector companies into the concession arrangement to ensure that Ghanaians own majority shares in ECG. The Council, however, expressed concern about government’s plans to go ahead with a concession arrangement in which the state will have no direct stake at all in the ECG. We believe strongly that the state must hold majority shares in an important and strategic asset like ECG.

The Council was also concerned that government has still not constituted the board of ECG. We do not believe that Government can deal effectively with the broader energy reform issues and manage ECG at the same time without board of directors.

Additionally, we fear that the interests of ECG workers will not be adequately protected without board of directors especially in this situation where there are very powerful interests pressuring government to privatise ECG.

The Council, therefore, renewed its calls for government to constitute a board for ECG without further delay. Government must also be transparent on all issues regarding the concession arrangement and create the necessary space for engagement with all relevant stakeholders particularly the union whose members stand to lose directly if the concession arrangement should go wrong. We also call on government to expedite action on the constitution of   governing boards of all public institutions.

Social Security

The General Council engaged in a very extensive and fruitful discussion with senior officials of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT). Council took a decision to work very closely with SSNIT to intensify education on pension to ensure income security for contributors during retirement.

Wage, productivity and work attitude

Council recalled the appeal made by President Nana Akufo-Addo in his 2017 May Day address regarding the need to enhance productivity through changes in negative attitude towards work. We would like to assure the President that Organised Labour is ready to work with all relevant stakeholders to improve productivity. We believe strongly that we can achieve this goal through social dialogue. We are, therefore, patiently waiting for the President to institute regular dialogue with the leadership of Organised Labour as he promised when he met the leadership of TUC during the campaign towards the last general elections.