Parties on the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) have made a commitment to work together to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on businesses and labour in the country.
To that end, the NTC, comprising the government, employers and labour yesterday signed a 10-point communiqué detailing pragmatic steps that had been agreed on to protect businesses while ensuring that workers do not unduly suffer the consequences of COVID-19 on the economy.
The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR), Mr Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, who is also the chairman of the NTC, signed the agreement on behalf of the government while the President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Mr Daniel Acheampong, and the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Yaw Baah, initialled for employers and labour respectively.
Mr Baffour-Awuah who read out the communiqué accompanying the agreement said the guidelines were arrived at an emergency meeting held by the NTC on April 21, this year.
In that agreement, the parties committed to use social dialogue to address the concerns that had emerged from the negative impact of COVID-19 in a manner that would ensure a mutual resolution of those challenges.
They also agreed on workplace safety protocols and guidelines that employers needed to put in place and the role labour must also play to protect lives.
Mr Baffour-Awuah said the NTC had agreed that all the parties must jointly ensure that the government’s policy on wearing of face masks at all public places, especially on the premises of businesses was strictly enforced.
As part of the agreement, the NTC stressed that employers and unions must collaborate and cooperate at the enterprise level through social dialogue to deal with the economic impact of the pandemic on their enterprises.
Additionally, the NTC urged employers to provide the requisite personal protective equipment (PPE) and related facilities for the health and safety of workers in compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols and Ministry of Health guidelines.
Providing further details of the NTC’s communiqué, Mr Baffour-Awuah asked employers to set up safety committees to deal with COVID-19 related matters at the workplace.
Also, he said employers were required to appoint focal persons to facilitate education on COVID-19 and also liaise with health professionals to handle any cases of the disease at the workplace.
“Employers should create an enabling environment for social distancing at the workplace and encourage their staff who can work from home to do so,” he added.
On the part of labour, the NTC asked unions to collaborate with employers to ensure that the WHO and MoH protocols were religiously followed.
“Local unions should educate workers on the shared responsibility of promoting personal safety to avoid spread of COVID-19 at the workplace by wearing face masks and ensuring personal and workplace hygiene,” the minister stressed.
Responding to a question on the stimulus package for businesses, Dr Baah called for the stimulus package the government announced to cushion small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to be extended to large companies.
“Already, the government has announced GH¢600 million as stimulus package for SMEs but in addition to that we want to join the GEA in recommending that we still need stimulus package for big businesses and not only SMEs.
“The big businesses have been paying taxes to the state for all these years and today if they are in trouble, we expect the government to come in strongly and support them,” he stressed.
He noted that as the NTC continued its engagement, it was important for the proposal that the GEA had put forward to the Ministry of Finance on stimulus package to be put on the table for discussion.
“We say this because the GH¢600 million set aside as stimulus package is not enough to bring the economy to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Touching on the COVID-19 fight, Dr Baah commended the government for the bold steps it had taken to contain the pandemic and gave an assurance that labour unions would play their role in the fight against the disease.
For his part, Mr Acheampong eulogised frontline health workers for putting their lives on the line to save lives in the era of the pandemic.
“We want to also commend the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for the great balancing act of protecting lives and keeping hope of the Ghanaian economy alive,” he said.
He reiterated that employers were ready to cooperate with other stakeholders to find workable solutions to the nagging economic challenges posed by the pandemic.
“As employers, we are committed to do our part and we will not let this country down,” he stressed.