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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ghana, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
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: 23,900,000
Capital: Accra
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

Several trade union leaders were dismissed. Labour law insufficiently guarantees the freedom of association. The list of essential services that was officially decided in 2007 is too long and restricts the right to strike even further. There was anti-union discrimination in the banking and insurance sector.

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powers to suspend the operations of any law and to prohibit public meetings and processions, has still not been repealed.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 other regulations in 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 to prison staff of 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.

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 the union 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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: John Atta-Mills won the December presidential elections. The Ghana Employers' Association (GEA) and the trade union confederations have since called for a revision of labour law on the basis that certain texts are overly ambiguous and do not promote social peace. The sections involved directly concern the right of association (setting up trade unions and collective bargaining), but the calls for revision also target certain legal texts that allow employers to dismiss their workers for no stated reason.

Persistent violations in export processing zones (EPZ): Even though the Labour Act (Act 2003/651) protects trade union members and their officers against discrimination if they organise within the free 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.

Anti-union discrimination: The banking and insurance sector saw a large number of dismissals of trade union activists. In January, five leaders of the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) and three other employees were dismissed at Barclays Bank Ghana Limited. The ICU denounced what it saw as a manoeuvre by the employer to pressure workers in order to achieve a favourable (for it) outcome of negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement. At the end of June, following threats of sanctions against strikers by the employer, the Bank of Ghana dismissed two employees, Benjamin Duffour and Frank Mensah of the Bank of Ghana Senior Staff Association, leading to a work stoppage by their colleagues. In this case, once again, the two workers' trade union activity was very clearly the principal reason for their dismissal. The ProCredit company in turn dismissed just as summarily the Vice-President of the union affiliated to the Union of Industry, Commerce and Finance Workers (UNICOF) after doing everything possible, since 2005, to slow down discussions on the collective agreement, including promoting the introduction of a yellow union.

Trade union leader dismissed in the mining sector: At the beginning of 2008, Kweku Shaibu, Chair of the local branch of the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMU), was dismissed by the management of Newmont Ghana Limited for questioning his employer's decision to withdraw the 4 a.m. coffee break. In a press release, the GMU denounced this "ruthless, vindictive and unfair" decision, together with the general deterioration of the social climate, with workers accusing management of discrimination, in particular against pregnant workers, and complaining of racist comments by an expatriate.

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