United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Ghana, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3720.html [accessed 27 March 2015]
This 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.
GHANA Ghana continues its transition from a single-party, authoritarian system to a constitutional democracy. Flight Lieutenant (ret.) Jerry John Rawlings has ruled Ghana for 15 years. He became the first President of the Fourth Republic following controversial elections in 1992. This ended 11 years of authoritarian rule under Rawlings and his Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), which had seized power from an elected government in 1981. While acknowledging irregularities, international monitors accepted the validity of the 1992 presidential election results. Four opposition parties, however, claimed massive fraud in the election and subsequently boycotted the December 1992 parliamentary elections, leaving the President's coalition in full control of Parliament and the Government. The Constitution calls for a system of checks and balances, with an executive branch headed by the President, a unicameral Parliament, an independent judiciary, and several autonomous commissions, such as the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Several security organizations report to various government departments. The police, under the jurisdiction of an eight-member Police Council, are responsible for maintaining law and order. The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) handles cases considered critical to state security. It is an independent department that answers directly to the executive branch. Credible allegations continue of police involvement in human rights abuses, especially in areas remote from the capital. Although the security apparatus is controlled by and responsive to the Government, monitoring, supervision, and education of the police in particular remain poor. After years of economic mismanagement, Ghana is trying to put its economy back on a sustainable growth track. The economy remains highly dependent on agriculture, with about 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) derived from this sector. Gold, cocoa, and timber are traditional sources of export earnings. The Government has announced its intention to privatize numerous state-owned enterprises, but progress has been slow to date. The nontraditional export sector is growing but still makes up a very small proportion of the overall economy. Weak performance in the agricultural sector in 1994 resulted in real GDP growth of 3.8 percent, barely ahead of annual population growth of about 3 percent. Progress in respect for human rights was mixed, after several years in which the situation had unquestionably been improving. The small but independent press, human rights monitoring groups, and opposition parties were vigorous and outspoken in criticizing various aspects of government policy. Even the government-owned media, which reach by far the largest audience and have long been silent about government policy, felt sufficiently confident to criticize individual agencies and departments. Nevertheless, doubts remain as to the Government's willingness to permit free and independent broadcast journalism. With the release of journalist Gershon Dompreh in February after 8 years in prison for possession of classified government documents, there remain no further known political prisoners or detainees. Police were implicated in the beatings of criminal suspects; at least one prisoner died in custody, almost certainly as a result of severe beatings inflicted by guards. Abuses stemming from pretrial detentions continue, and prison conditions remain harsh. Although the Government, through its CHRAJ, instituted programs aimed at educating the police and military to respect constitutionally guaranteed rights, there is no independent framework to review or scrutinize the security forces' actions. Human rights abuses, such as beatings and detention without charge, still go unreported, although individual awareness of constitutionally guaranteed rights is increasing, along with government and independent press reporting of such incidents. However, traditional practices result in considerable discrimination and abuse of women, with violence against women a particular problem. In the year's most disturbing development, on May 11 unknown persons fired upon peaceful demonstrators in the process of dispersing, killing four persons. At year's end, it was still unclear who had been ultimately responsible for arming the counter-protestors, but there were credible accusations that the Minister for Youth and Sports was responsible. However, the Government failed to establish an independent commission to investigate the incident, thereby staining its human rights record. In contrast, the Government supported its high-profile CHRAJ in its investigations and mediation of cases. Although the Commission has the authority to arbitrate individual cases, it has no enforcement powers. It has, however, been active in educating public officials and community leaders and in critically examining: charges of corruption against high-ranking government officials; the Government's performance in prison administration and prison conditions; and illegal government confiscations of property.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were two reported deaths of suspects in police custody. In January the government press reported in considerable detail that police had arrested a 35-year-old man from Tetrem in the Ashanti region for stealing cassava. He attempted to escape but was recaptured and severely beaten with batons by policemen. He was not hospitalized for 4 days and died shortly thereafter. His autopsy revealed extensive beatings. The CHRAJ reports that the offending officers have been suspended from service and are currently awaiting trial. In June the press reported another death of a suspect in police custody. In this case, police discovered a 22-year-old man in New Tafo, Eastern region hanged in his cell. Based upon reported evidence, the police appear to have been innocent of wrongdoing. The police insisted that the death was a suicide, but the deceased's parents claimed that a self-performed hanging was impossible in this cell and that authorities had buried his body too hastily. As detailed in the government press, an investigation by the Special Police Command exonerated the police, stating that a post mortem investigation confirmed death by hanging and that the body in fact had been released to the family. The government press reported in September that a suspect in Kade was shot and killed by police while in custody, despite the fact that he had been granted bail and was to have been released 2 months previously. According to the press, the family requested an inquiry by the Inspector General of Police, but by year's end it was unknown if such an investigation would be undertaken. The responsibility of elements in the ruling party for killing four protesters and bystanders during a May demonstration is unknown but appears likely (see Section 2.b.). Journalist Kwesi Pratt was unsuccessful in his continued efforts to persuade the Government to investigate extrajudicial killings in the early years of PNDC rule, despite police professions in 1993 of willingness to investigate such killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment The Constitution states that the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable and that no one shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or any other condition that detracts from human dignity. Nonetheless, there were credible reports that members of the police beat prisoners and other citizens. However, the police showed restrain in handling large crowds, including during antigovernment demonstrations in May (see Section 2.b.). There were several press accounts of investigations by police authorities in cases of police brutality. However, the results made public were generally those in which suspects were exonerated. Prisons are in most cases very poorly maintained, and conditions are extremely harsh. In February CHRAJ reported that prisons were unsanitary and overcrowded, that conditions can be considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading, as defined by the United Nations, and also were in violation of Ghana's own Constitution. The Commissioner further acknowledged that prisons provide inadequate nutrition and medical services to inmates. Although the Government has occasionally commuted the sentences of ill or aged prisoners, its failure to provide adequate and timely medical care to prisoners has resulted in deaths. In April the press reported that several small children were imprisoned with their mothers. The Ghana Prisons Service took immediate action, placing the children with other family members or orphanages. CHRAJ inspections in August revealed that youth and adult inmates were housed together. The Government allows monitoring of prison conditions by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution provides for protection against arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile and states that an individual detained shall be informed immediately, in a language the detained person understands, of the reasons for the detention, and of the right to a lawyer and to an interpreter, the latter at state expense. It also requires judicial warrants for arrest and provides for arraignment within 48 hours. In practice, however, many abuses occur, including detention without charge for longer than 48 hours and failure to obtain a warrant for arrest. The court has unlimited discretion regarding the setting of bail, which can be excessive. It may refuse to release prisoners on bail and instead remand them without charge for an indefinite period, subject to weekly review by judicial authorities. It is common to remand a prisoner to investigative custody. The Constitution requires, however, that a detainee who has not been tried within a "reasonable" time shall be released either unconditionally or subject to conditions necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for court proceedings. Approximately 30 percent of the prison population consists of pretrial detainees. Despite the provisions of the law, abuses occur. People are sometimes detained for trivial offenses or unsubstantiated accusations. In one highly publicized case, a murder suspect, a citizen of Burkina Faso, was released after 16 years' remand. His release was the result of the CHRAJ's investigation of prison conditions. After learning of his plight, the Commission initiated legal proceedings resulting in his release. In June eight detainees in a Cape Coast prison, with the support of other inmates, revolted, demanding their constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial. According to a report in the government press, some remanded suspects have been in prison for 2 to 3 years. There were no known political arrests in 1995. The Government does not practice forced exile and encourages citizens with valuable skills who are living abroad to return, including dissidents. Some former government and discredited PNDC officials have returned and resumed careers and political activities.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government posed no serious challenges to judicial independence during the year. However, the Ghana Bar Association protested the confirmation of Chief Justice Abban, alleging that he is unqualified for the position and that the President had forced his confirmation through Parliament without sufficient time for debate or public hearings. There were no charges of judicial corruption. Nevertheless, the integrity of the legal system is compromised by a severe lack of financial, human, and material resources in the judicial service. The Constitution establishes two basic levels of courts: superior and lower. The superior courts include the Supreme Court, the Appeals Court, the High Court, and regional tribunals. Parliament may establish lower courts or tribunals by decree. Legal safeguards are based on British legal procedures. Defendants are presumed innocent, trials are public, and defendants have a right to be present, to be represented by an attorney (at public expense if necessary), to present evidence, and to cross-examine witnesses. In practice, authorities respect these safeguards. The CHRAJ's charter provides for it to investigate alleged violations of human rights and take action to remedy proven violations. To date, it has held workshops to educate the public, traditional leaders, the police, and the military on human rights issues. It mediates and settles cases brought to it by individuals with grievances against government agencies or private companies. In 1993 and 1994 (the most recent figures), the CHRAJ received over 3,000 petitions in its offices around the country and disposed of over 1,000. About 70 percent of the complaints lodged with the Commission were labor and workplace related. The Chieftaincy Act of 1971 gives village and other traditional chiefs powers to mediate local matters, including authority to enforce customary tribal laws dealing with such matters as divorce, child custody, and property disputes. There were no reports of political prisoners. The last known political prisoner was Gershon Dompreh, released in January 1995.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Observers assume that the Government continues to engage in surveillance of citizens engaged in activity which it deems objectionable. In the past, this included monitoring of telephones and mail. Although the law requires judicial search warrants, police do not always obtain them. The Constitution provides that a person shall be free from interference within the privacy of his home, property, correspondence, or communication. This article has yet to be tested.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and opposition political parties and others have used these freedoms to criticize the Government. In general, the Government has not suppressed the exercise of freedom of speech by the print media but has continually pressured the government-run media for conformity. Also, it has yet to implement free speech or free press for broadcasting. The Government dominates the print and electronic media, controlling the radio and television stations and the two daily newspapers. The official media continue to emphasize positive aspects of government policies, although they also report charges of corruption or mismanagement in government ministries and state-owned enterprises. The state-owned media do not directly criticize government policies or President Rawlings, although they often print articles that criticize individual governmental agencies. The Government occasionally subjects journalists to discipline or dismissal for articles deemed unacceptable. On occasion, the government-owned media printed editorials critical of the Government but which did not criticize top officials. The independent press continues to publish unimpeded, with newspapers and magazines critical of the Government, including personal attacks on the President, his wife, and his close advisers. However, independent newspapers and magazines tend to be small and poorly financed, with little circulation outside major cities. There are accusations that the Government indirectly manipulates the independent press by refusing to do business with companies that advertise in opposition newspapers. However, advertising is steadily increasing in the independent newspapers. Foreign periodicals are sold in Accra and other major cities. Issues containing articles critical of the Government circulate freely. Most Ghanaians obtain their news from the government-owned electronic media and British Broadcasting Corporation radio. Under the Constitution, individuals are free to own radio and television stations. However, independent broadcasters have encountered countless obstacles and delays in their attempts to gain access to the government-monopolized airwaves. One firm, the Independent Media Corporation of Ghana (IMCG), began broadcasting in November 1994 after having waited for almost 1 year without result in their application for a license. Several weeks after IMCG's appearance on the airwaves, the police seized its transmission equipment, citing the station's failure to obtain authorization to broadcast. The equipment remains confiscated despite a High Court ruling that the police had acted illegally and that the equipment should be returned. For the greater part of the year, the Government procrastinated in allocating frequencies to numerous private applicants. A list of the first frequency recipients appeared in July and comprised 36 organizations, including IMCG. This was the first critical step toward independent broadcasting in Ghana. Despite the constitutional prohibition of "impediments to the establishment of private press or media," the new frequency holders must pay a nonrefundable "commitment fee" in order to operate. Meanwhile, there are still no genuinely autonomous radio stations. One radio station, Radio Joy, appeared unexpectedly in April without authorization from the Ministry of information or the Frequency Allocation Board. Its directors, many of whom are associated with high government officials, negotiated a special deal with the government-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to obtain one of its unused frequencies. The issue of allowing independent broadcasting companies to operate, and therefore of providing the opposition with a stronger political voice, will increase in importance as Ghana approaches major elections in late 1996. Civil suits for libel are allowed, and the Criminal Libel Law holds the potential for inhibiting the freedom of the press. This law allows criminal prosecution in cases where a false report injures the credit or reputation of the State. This is at odds with the Constitution, which prohibits criminal prosecution for the publication of any item, true or not, by any individual. Currently a publisher and an editor of an independent paper, charged with criminal libel, are free on bail but awaiting trial. State attorneys are prosecuting the case based on defamatory remarks made about the first lady, whom they define as a government official. In early 1995, a journalist was accused of insulting the Chief Justice in print and served 30 days in prison for contempt of court. There has been no restriction of academic freedom on university campuses. The National Union of Ghanian Students, one of the more vocal critics of the Government, is allowed to organize and hold meetings.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association; it does not require permits for demonstrations. However, Parliament passed a public order bill in late 1994 requiring that all organizers of "special events" or "processions" inform the police of their intentions so that the police can institute precautionary measures. The new law also provides for curfews and arrest without warrants in specified instances. The Government's commitment to respect the right of peaceful assembly was drawn into serious question when unknown persons killed four protestors after an otherwise orderly demonstration in Accra. Demonstrators organized by the AFC marched peacefully on May 11 to protest the Government's new value added tax, but they were fired upon by counter-demonstrators when dispersing. Although the AFC and the independent press praised police conduct during the demonstration, they also provided credible evidence that it was the Minister of Youth and Sports who had organized and armed the counter- demonstrators. The Government has ignored repeated requests to establish an independent commission to investigate the affair. Instead, the Minister of the Interior released a statement in September claiming that a police committee was unable to identify any specific individuals responsible for the shootings, and the matter was thus closed. The police committee's report has never been publicly released. The Government's likely involvement and its failure to take decisive action to resolve the case of these four killings constitute the biggest stain on Ghana's 1995 human rights record.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no state-favored religion and no apparent advantages or disadvantages attached to membership in any particular sect or religion. Foreign missionary groups have generally operated throughout the country with a minimum of formal restrictions.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Citizens and foreigners are free to move throughout the country without special permission. Police checkpoints exist countrywide to prevent smuggling, but most are left unmanned during daylight hours. Roadblocks and car searches are a normal part of nighttime travel in Accra. Citizens are generally free to travel internationally and to emigrate or to be repatriated from other countries. Since Ghana is a member of the Economic Community of West African States, Ghanaians may travel without visas for up to 90 days in member states. Since March 1994, members of the Konkomba tribe in the Northern region have been afraid to enter towns and cities in that region due to ongoing ethnic conflicts (see Section 5). For the Konkomba, who rely on trading agricultural products as their sole source of income, the inability to travel is a tremendous hardship. Since March 1994, a number of Konkomba have sought refuge in Togo as a result of ethnic conflict in the north. The Government has a liberal policy of accepting refugees from other West African nations, and Ghana continues to host substantial refugee populations, including approximately 94,000 Togolese who fled to Ghana in 1993 and an estimated 20,000 Liberians.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens last exercised the right to change their government through a democratic process in presidential elections held in 1992. International observers noted serious problems in the electoral process but concluded, on balance, that they did not change the outcome. However, opposition parties protested the results by boycotting subsequent parliamentary elections. Thus, except for 3 independent members, all 200 Members of Parliament belong to one of the three parties that supported President Rawlings, whose NDC party won 95 percent of the seats in the parliamentary and presidential elections of 1992. The Government has taken some steps to bring the opposition into the political process, including electoral reform. The NDC lost its first by-election ever in July to an independent candidate. Although the loss was likely due to a split in an NDC alliance, this defeat could perhaps be interpreted as a sign of rising public discontent with the political status quo. In preparation for major elections in 1996, the Government created a National Electoral Commission to supervise voting. All significant political parties are represented on the Commission. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and there are no obstacles to the participation of women in government. Several ministers and Council of State members are women. There are 16 female parliamentarians.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Human rights organizations continued to grow in number and strength, but the threat of government interference may hinder their ability to operate freely. The Government has drafted a bill that would require NGO's to register with a National Advisory Council. This Council, consisting primarily of government appointees, would have the authority to deny, suspend, or cancel an NGO's right to operate. The bill, which would also apply to international NGO's, remained pending at year's end.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. The courts are specifically empowered to enforce these prohibitions, although enforcement by the authorities is generally inadequate, in part due to limited financial resources.
Violence against women, including rape and wife beating, remains a significant problem. These abuses usually go unreported and seldom come before the courts. The police tend not to intervene in domestic disputes. However, the media increasingly report cases of assault and rape. Women continue to experience societal discrimination. Women in urban centers and those with skills and training encounter little overt bias, but resistance to women in nontraditional roles persists. Women, especially in rural areas, remain subject to burdensome labor conditions and traditional male dominance. Often deeply entrenched traditions and the use of traditional courts to handle family matters deny them rightful inheritances and property, a legally registered marriage (and with it, certain legal rights), recourse to divorce, and the maintenance and custody of children, all provided for by law. Women's rights groups are active in educational campaigns and in programs to provide vocational training, legal aid, and other support to women. The Government is also active in educational programs in support of women's rights.
Within the limits of its resources, the Government is committed to protecting the rights and welfare of children. There is little or no discrimination against females in education, but girls and women frequently drop out due to societal or economic pressures. Statistics show an equal male to female ratio in school enrollments in grade 1, dropping to 2 to 1 by grade 6, 4 to 1 at the secondary level, and 9 to 1 at the university level. There are several traditional discriminatory practices that are injurious to female health and development. In particular, female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is a serious problem. According to one study, the percentage of women who have undergone this procedure may be as high as 30 percent, although most observers believe 15 percent to be more accurate. FGM is practiced mostly in Muslim communities in the far northeastern and northwestern parts of the country. As of 1994, FGM became a criminal act, and courts have convicted at least one practitioner to date. Another practice, found primarily in the Volta region, is an especially severe abuse and a flagrant violation of children's rights. The tro-kosi (or "vestal virgin") system is a traditional practice in which a young girl, usually under the age of 10, is made a slave to a fetish shrine for offenses allegedly committed by a member of the girl's family. The belief is that if someone in that family has committed a crime, such as stealing, members of the family may begin to die in large numbers unless a young girl is given to the local fetish shrine to atone for the offense. The girl becomes the property of the fetish priest and is often required to perform sexual favors. These girls are seldom allowed to go to school and must work on the priest's farm and perform other labors for him, but the girls' families must provide food for their meals. When the fetish slave dies or is released, usually without skills or the likelihood of marriage, the family is expected to replace her with another young girl for the fetish shrine. Although the Constitution outlaws slavery, the Parliament has yet to pass a law explicitly prohibiting tro-kosi. The practice persists because of deeply entrenched traditional beliefs to which even high-ranking officials reportedly adhere. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that legislation alone would eliminate the practice. There are an estimated 1,000 fetish slaves bound to various shrines. Other traditional practices that violate the human rights of children are forced childhood marriages and tribal scarring, deep cuts made to the face to show membership in a particular tribe. The prostitution of female children exists despite its illegality.
People with Disabilities
The Constitution specifically provides for the rights of people with disabilities, including protection against exploitation and discrimination. It also states that "as far as practicable, every place to which the public has access shall have appropriate facilities for disabled persons." In practice, however, this provision has yet to be implemented.
Although the Government plays down the importance of ethnic differences, its opponents occasionally complain that it is dominated by the Ewe ethnic group from eastern Ghana. The President and many of his close advisers are Ewe, but many ministers are of other ethnic origins. There were continuing tensions and violence between ethnic groups in the northern region, which left as many as 20,000 dead and 100,000 injured in 1994 and 150 dead in 1995. Peace negotiations, underway since the initial violence in 1994, have not made substantive progress, and the Government has done little to push the negotiations forward and bring an end to the violence (see also Section 2.d.).
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
This right is restricted, as the Trades Union Ordinance confers broad powers on the Government to refuse to register a trade union. However, neither the PNDC nor the present Government has interfered with the right of workers to associate in labor unions. About 9 percent of workers belong to unions, a figure that has been declining slowly over the past several years. The Industrial Relations Act (IRA), initially written in 1958, amended in 1965 and 1972, governs trade unions and their activities. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is the only existing confederation, although it has no legal monopoly. In recent years it has been led by experienced union leaders who, aided by a revised union constitution and by-laws, continued to define an autonomous role for the TUC within the NDC regime. Since the 1992 elections, the TUC has taken a somewhat more confrontational stance vis-a-vis the Government and has criticized some of its economic policies. Civil servants have their own union, the Civil Servants Association, which operates outside of the TUC umbrella. Government employees of several different departments and agencies went out on strike this year without government retribution. The law recognizes the right to strike. Under the IRA, the Government established a system of settling disputes, first through conciliation, then through arbitration. A union may call a legal strike if negotiations and mediation fail. However, because no union has ever gone through the complete process, there have been no legal strikes since independence. The University Teachers Association of Ghana went on strike to protest the absence of pay increases, effectively closing the nation's university system for most of the academic year. The IRA prohibits retribution against strikers, and this law is enforced. There has been no progress in implementing the Government's declared intention to establish labor tribunals to arbitrate industrial disputes certified as deadlocked. Unions have the right to affiliate with international bodies. The TUC is affiliated with the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, headquartered in Accra and is also a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The IRA provides a framework for collective bargaining and some protection against antiunion discrimination as well. Trade unions engage in collective bargaining for wages and benefits with both private and state-owned enterprises without government interference. The Government, labor, and employers negotiate together, however, through a tripartite commission to set minimum standards for wages and working conditions. The law requires employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers fired for union activities. No union leaders have been detained in recent years for union or other activities. There is one operating export processing zone (EPZ), with legislation approving others imminent. EPZ's are subject to the same labor laws as in the rest of the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not known to be practiced except in the tro-kosi system (see Section 5). The International Labor Organization (ILO) continues to urge the Government to revise various legal provisions that permit imprisonment with an obligation to perform labor for offenses that are not countenanced under ILO Convention 105.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Labor legislation sets a minimum employment age of 15 and prohibits night work and certain types of hazardous labor for those under 18 years of age. In practice, child employment is widespread, and young children of school age often perform menial tasks during the day in the market or collect fares on local buses. Observance of minimum age laws is eroded by local custom and economic circumstances that encourage children to work to help their families. Officials only occasionally punish violators of regulations which prohibit heavy labor and night work for children. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare are responsible for enforcement of child labor regulations. They visit each workplace annually and make spot checks whenever they receive allegations of violations.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In 1991 minimum standards for wages and working conditions were set by a tripartite commission composed of representatives of the Government, labor, and employers. The daily minimum wage, revised in 1995, combines wages with customary benefits, such as a transportation allowance. The current daily minimum wage is the equivalent of $1.00 (1,200 cedis). This sum is insufficient for a single wage earner to support a family. In most cases households have multiple wage earners, some family farming, and other family based commercial activities. The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours, with one break of at least 36 consecutive hours every 7 days. Through collective bargaining, however, the basic workweek for most unionized workers is 40 hours. Occupational safety and health regulations are in effect, and the Labor Department of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare occasionally imposes sanctions on violators. Safety inspectors are few, however, and poorly trained. They take action if matters are called to their attention, but lack the resources to seek out violations. Workers have the right to withdraw themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment, but they rarely exercise this right.