Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea6620c3.html [accessed 26 December 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: 23,800,000
Capital: Accra
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

Many employers remain hostile to trade unions, particularly in the export processing zones (EPZ). One union leader was sacked for speaking out about concerns over the future of jobs in the health insurance authority. The labour legislation does not sufficiently secure trade union rights, and the authorities retain some discretionary powers over unions.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Although the Labour Act has been brought more into line with international labour standards, problematic areas remain. For starters, the Emergency Powers Act 1994 is still in force, and grants the authorities extensive powers to suspend any law and prohibit public meetings and processions. Many categories of workers are also excluded from the Labour Act, including managerial workers, the definition of whom is very broad. If there are multiple unions at a workplace, the "chief labour officer" has discretionary powers to decide which union will be awarded the collective bargaining "certificate" needed to negotiate with the employer. Albeit the right to strike is guaranteed in the Labour Act, it can be limited in private enterprises if the workers' services are deemed essential to the enterprise's survival, and in essential services, which includes many sectors that fall outside the ILO definition.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Ghana remained politically and economically stable during the year and was on course to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty by 2015. It is still very dependent on international development assistance, however, and only ranks 130th on the Human Development Index. A new public sector pay policy, the Single Spine Salary Structure, was introduced in June, welcomed by some unions and rejected by others.

Employers use court decision to undermine trade union rights: Although freedom of association is protected in law, in practice this is undermined by a 2008 decision of the Accra High Court concerning Ghana Telecommunications Limited (GT) to the effect that employers could hire and fire without giving any reasons for the termination of employment. Mr Kofi Asamoah, secretary general of Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), warned at the 2009 May Day rally that some employers were using the ruling to get rid of so-called troublesome workers and unionists.

Persistent violations in EPZ: Some employers in the export processing zones (EPZ) have persistently resisted the unionisation of their employees, despite the protection provided by the 2003 Labour Act. Blue Skies Products (Gh) Ltd (a subsidiary of Blue Skies Holdings UK), an EPZ fruit processing company that employs over one thousand workers, has consistently refused to recognise its workers' union the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU). FAWU is an affiliate of the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL). The union organised the workers and was issued with a Collective Bargaining Certificate in February 2004, but has still not been able to negotiate with the company.

Employer intolerance of trade unions: Many employers have a policy of zero tolerance for trade unions. Workers who attempt to form or join a trade union are intimidated and dismissed. Some employers include anti-union clauses in their employment contracts. In an interview in January 2010 Samuel Kwasi Donkor Baffoe, Industrial Relations Officer of the Union of Industry, Commerce and Finance (UNICOF), publicly called on employers to respect the right of workers to join any labour union of their choice and refrain from threatening their unionised employees with dismissals. Many rural and community banks in the Ashanti region were criticised by the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) for deliberately attempting to frustrate unionisation at the workplace. The findings were contained in a research conducted by the ICU to ascertain the basis of alleged workplace intimidation of its members.

Blue Skies workers still denied right to join union of their choice: Blue Skies Products (Gh) Ltd continued to drag its feet over recognition of its workers' union the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU). While the Labour Department issued a collective bargaining certificate to FAWU, it also gave one to the Blue Skies Staff Association, which the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL) has described as a yellow union. The case to decide which union should represent the workers went to court. FAWU filed a motion to join in the case in order to press its position. The case was called to court on 14 October without prior notification given to FAWU. The Attorney General's Department suddenly announced the discontinuation of the case, without explanation. Blue Skies had filed several cases against GFL and FAWU as a means of delaying the recognition of its workers' union. The cases were still pending at the end of the year.

Union leader dismissed for speaking out: Kwabena Bobie, branch chairman of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) workers' union was dismissed on 6 December for comments he allegedly made in a recent interview on Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station. Mr. Bobie spoke on 13 November about the actions of some National Democratic Congress (NDC) staff which had led to the closure of some NHIA offices, as well as some cash flow problems facing the health insurance scheme, expressing concern for the job security of his colleagues. Although officials of NHIA are on record confirming some of the concerns Mr. Bobie alluded to in his Joy FM interview, the NHIA's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sylvester Mensah, terminated his appointment.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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