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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca8f7.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 23,500,000
Capital: Accra
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

The list of essential services that was officially decided in 2007 is too long and restricts the right to strike even further. Attempted intimidation during an "illegal" strike in the health sector was also reported.

Trade union rights in law

Rights protected: Article 21 of the Constitution of Ghana recognises the right of all persons to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, including forming and joining trade unions or other associations for the protection of their interest, and freedom of assembly.

The 2004 Labour Act removed restrictions on the right to organise, bringing the law into line with ILO Convention 87. However, the Emergency Powers Act 1994, which grants extensive powers to suspend the operations of any law and to prohibit public meetings and processions, has still not been repealed. The Labour Act 2004 has been supplemented by the Labour Regulations 2007.

The armed forces, the police, the prison service, and the security and intelligence agencies mentioned under the 1966 Security and Intelligence Agencies Act are excluded from the scope of the labour code. The denial of prison staff the right to organise is considered to be a violation of the principles of freedom of association.

Section 79(29) of the Labour Act excludes workers from the right to join a trade union, where their function is considered as: (a) policy-making, (b) decision-making, (c) managerial, (d) holding a position of trust, (e) performing duties that are of a highly confidential nature or (f) being an agent of a shareholder of an undertaking. The exclusion of managerial and supervisory staff is only compatible with C.87 if the workers concerned have a right to establish their own associations.

Unions have restricted right to strike: The law recognises the right to strike, with limitations. All disputes have to be referred to the National Labour Commission (NLC) which is an arbitration body composed of government, union and employers' representatives. Strikes are seen as a last resort, where arbitration is unsuccessful, and unions must give seven days' notice.

During the year the government drew up a list of essential services, which includes many sectors (such as fuel distribution and public transport) that should not be regarded as essential services based on the ILO definition. In addition, limitations can be imposed on the right to strike for workers in a private enterprise if their services are deemed essential to the enterprise's survival.

Risk of bias in recognition of trade unions for collective bargaining purposes: The 2004 Labour Act makes the "chief labour officer" responsible for designating the most representative trade union which will be authorised to negotiate with the employer, through giving it a collective bargaining "certificate". That official decides which union should be awarded the certificate where there is more than one union in the company. The ILO maintains that the chief labour officer has totally discretionary powers and that the criteria on which the decision is based are not clear. Any system requiring mandatory recognition should also apply objective criteria so as to avoid any risk of bias or abuse, but this is not the case.

There is no minimum statutory length of time for a collective agreement to last.

Persistent violations in Export processing zones (EPZ): Even though the Labour Act (Labour Act 2003, Act 651) protects trade union members and their officers against discrimination if they organise within the zones, in practice some employers have persistently resisted unionisation of the employees.

The Blue Skies Products (Gh) Ltd (a subsidiary of Blue Skies Holdings UK is an EPZ fruit processing company established in Ghana in April 1997 and employs over one thousand workers. The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) of the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL) organised the workers and was issued with the Collective Bargaining Certificate in February 2004. Since then the company has refused to allow the unionisation of the workers and the dispute is still pending at the National Labour Commission.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: A few months after celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence, in September the country suffered some of the worst floods for over 30 years. Most of the harvest was ruined.

Anti-union discrimination: Unions report anti-union discrimination in many companies, which the authorities fail to stop. Many employers are particularly resistant to senior staff being unionised. Anti-union discrimination was also rife in the private security sector. The Union of Private Security Employees of Ghana criticised the 2004 Labour Act, which no longer obliges employers to meet trade union representatives at the latter's request. No union has ever gone through the complete dispute resolution process, and there were numerous illegal strike actions during the year. There have been no legal strikes since independence.

Illegal strike and intimidation in the health sector: At the start of May, after a strike called by the Health Workers Group (HWG) had just started on 30 April, the management of Korle-Bu Hospital in Accra, the largest in the country, ordered the departmental heads to send it a list of the absent workers so that the "necessary action" could be taken. The National Labour Commission (NLC) declared the strike illegal, though asked the Ministry of Health to listen to the strikers' demands. Though repeated to no avail since early 2006, the HWG's demands concerned salary increases. The strike ended on 9 May after an agreement was reached between the HWG and the Ministry of Health.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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