Monday, January 19, 2009

Organised labour seeks audience with President over pay

Organised labour says it has written to President John Evans Atta Mills seeking audience with him to discuss the details of the recent salary increase and issues relating to the single spine salary structure.
     It has therefore asked members to remain calm and exercise restraint while the leaderships deal with the issue to ensure that workers receive a fair deal under the new administration.
     Former President John Agyekum on the eve of his departure from office on January 6 announced increases in salaries ranging from 16.5 per cent to 34 per cent for different categories of public sector workers.
     The salary increases are to take effect from January 1 this year and mark the beginning of the implementation of the Single Spine Pay structure.
     Speaking on behalf of the various labour unions at a press conference in Accra, Dr. Yaw Baah, Acting Secretary-General of Ghana TUC, said the meeting with government had become necessary because the unions were still in the dark about the details of the salary increases and they would like to find out the facts from government.
     The Unions, he said, did not have any correspondence from the former government announcing the pay increases.
     "We in organised labour have not received any official document from (former) Government on the increase and the related issues. Our reference document is the press statement signed by Mr. Frank Agyekum, who was the Deputy Minister of Information of the NPP Government, which was released on 6th January 2009," Dr. Baah said.
     He said the absence of clear direction on the issues of the increases was creating anxiety among workers, especially those in the public sector and even the private sector.
     Dr. Baah said organised labour could not understand why some salaries should go up by only 16.5 per cent when inflation currently stands at around 18 per cent.
     While acknowledging organised labour's role in the process towards the Single Spine Salary structure up to the point where the consultant submitted its report, Dr Baah said the expectation of the unions was that government would issue a white paper or a policy document, which will serve as basis for the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to negotiate with Unions.
     "It was a big surprise to hear that (the former) Government has announced that the Single Spine Salary structure was in operation because we had not completed the process," he said.
     Dr Baah said crucial elements of the structure such as negotiations of the minimum pay, the percentage differentials across the pay points on the Single Spine Salary structure and education of workers on the new pay structure had not been done.
     "This is a cause for worry because it appears that the institutions that have been created to deal with public sector salary issues have been undermined by (the former) Government."
     In a related development, organised labour is asking government to ignore the World Bank advice of a freeze in public wages over the next three years and progressive elimination of electricity subsidies.
     These were said to be contained in a letter sent by the World Bank to the Government.
     Dr Baah said the contents of the letter were important to the unions because they had implications for the implementation of the single spine salary structure and public sector salaries, generally. 
     "We remember vividly what the same World Bank, in collaboration with IMF, did to us in the 1980s and 1990s when thousands of public sector workers lost their jobs in the name of the so-called structural adjustment. Most of the workers who were affected continue to suffer severe poverty and destitution," he said.
     Dr Baah said organised labour would closely monitor policies and events and was ready to resist any attempt to revisit suffering on Ghanaian workers.

No comments: