Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ghana

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ghana, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8894dc.html [accessed 20 September 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: 24,300,000
Capital: Accra

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Trade unionists who tried to protest about the poor performance of their employer found themselves victimised. Police used excessive force against protesting teachers. Unionisation in the export processing zones (EPZ) remains complicated mainly due to employers' resistance. The labour legislation does not sufficiently secure trade union rights, and the authorities retain some discretionary powers over unions.

Background

The country remained politically and economically stable, with plans for further off-shore oil exploration boding well for the economy. Disputes continued however, over the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure, notably among teachers and medical staff, because of serious discrepancies.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

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. After the ruling the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned that some employers were using it 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).

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.

Informal sector and domestic workers – a large, unprotected workforce: An estimated 85% of Ghanaian workers are employed in the informal sector, where the implementation of labour laws is patchy, and workers are often unaware of their labour and trade union rights. The sector includes domestic workers, mainly women, who constitute a particularly vulnerable and low paid workforce, hidden behind closed doors, whose rights are not provided for in labour legislation. There was good news for domestic workers during the year however when the government established a Task Force to to develop a Draft National Policy Document on Decent Work for domestic workers.

Violations

Police use excessive violence against protesting teachers: The National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) condemned the use of brutal force by police on some of its members. On 11 March, police fired tear-gas at teachers who were marching towards the Ministry of Information where teachers' leaders were in a meeting with Government stakeholders to discuss discrepancies in their salaries. One of the leaders of the demonstrators, Ernest Opoku, said as they approached the Ministry, the police officers accosted them and started firing tear-gas and beating up some of them without provocation. A police commander claimed the police had to fire tear gas because the crowd was getting out of control, but NAGRAT issued a statement complaining that the use of force was excessive. The Deputy Minister for Education later apologised to teachers for the incident.

Water company accused of victimising trade unionists: Workers at Aqua Vitens Rand Limited, a private company contracted to manage Ghana Water Company, complained in February about the victimisation of their union officers through transfers and other tactics. Workers and their union representatives had complained of poor management, insecurity and confusion due to a new salary structure and changing placements. The Public Utility Workers Union (PUWU) asked for a meeting with the Board of Directors to discuss the way forward, to no avail. The company had come under criticism for its poor performance, and in June was obliged to hand operations back to Ghana Water Company.

Chinese company prevents formation of union amid serious health and safety problems:

A Chinese construction firm working on a road project at Akatsi in the Volta Region, China Jiang International Construction Company, was ordered by the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare to suspend operations with immediate effect at the end of September for failing to comply with Ghana's labour laws.

The order followed reports of abuse of Ghanaian employees. When inspectors and a Deputy Minister visited the company they found that there was no Collective Agreement setting out the conditions of service. They also found that although the Minister of Roads and Highways had supported the formation of a trade union in the company, management had resisted, and effectively prevented it through intimidation. Anyone thought to be complaining about conditions in the company was blacklisted and subsequently dismissed.

The workers had been particularly concerned about health and safety condition. Four Ghanaian labourers had lost their lives and ten others, who sustained various degrees of injury in the course of their work, had not been paid any compensation by the company. Workers who needed protective clothing have not been provided any. The Managing Director of the company, Mr Wan Wulong, claimed not to know of the existence of the Labour Act and provisions concerning the protection of workers' interests.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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