Labour unions in the country have called for the urgent review of the current labour laws which they describe as colonial in nature and an affront to the dignity and sweat of the Ghanaian worker.
They argued that the prevailing laws did not provide adequate protection for workers in terms of job and income security as well as health and safety.
The Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, called for the review when he spoke on behalf of labour unions at this year’s national May Day parade in Accra yesterday.
It was on the theme: “Sustainable Pensions for All; The Role of Social Partners.”
Dr Baah said the labour unions had made a case at the National Tripartite Committee for a review of the labour laws, especially the National Labour Act, to protect the interest of workers of Ghana.
He expressed the confidence that the government would provide the necessary support for the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General and Parliament to facilitate the review process to come up with a law that would truly protect workers from the prevailing colonial labour practices.
“There are still hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian workers who are paid below the minimum wage of GH¢270 per month. Many employees have been working for decades without employment contract,” he said.
Dr Baah added that many Ghanaian workers were denied their fundamental human rights to join unions because they could be sacked by their employers, citing telecom companies and hotels as the worst culprits, while other workers were denied annual and sick leave with pay.
The TUC Secretary General said some workers were forced to work over time without pay, children worked in hazardous conditions in farms and engaged in fishing and surprisingly some female employees had been denied their reproductive rights to have children because their employment contracts would be terminated if they were found to be pregnant.
“Unfortunately, some state institutions are guilty of these things,” Dr Baah said.
Those unfair labour practices, he stated, were being perpetrated by employers who knew that the state institutions charged with checking those things, especially the Factories Inspectorate Division of the Labour Department and National Labour Commission, could not enforce compliance.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to provide the necessary human and financial resources for those state institutions to perform their duties effectively.
On pensions, Dr Baah said the labour unions were focusing on pension this year because even though Ghana’s total working population was estimated at 13 million, just 1.5 million of them had access to pension under the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
He explained that more than 11 million workers did not have access to social security, saying the situation was unacceptable in a rich and proud middle-income country such as Ghana.
To him “something had definitely gone wrong in our economic and social policy.”
He appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to correct the flaw in the nation’s social policy with concrete plans and a road map for pension coverage in Ghana in the 2020 budget.
The weakness, he pointed out, was due to inherent flaws in the pension.