The General Secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU), Mr Solomon Kotei, has reminded Trade Unions that they have a duty and responsibility to ensure that their workers get decent treatment from employers.
Mr Kotei who gave the reminder at this year’s observation of Decent Work Day on Wednesday in Accra, said the essence of this protest was to bring the attention of government, authorities in charge of labour issues, NGOs, the public, and workers, to the injustice and deprivation being meted out to workers who by no fault of theirs, find themselves in indecent employment.
The Day which falls on June 7 of every year, is aimed at reminding Employers to be mindful of the International Labour Organization’s concept of ‘Decent Work,’ and make it productive.
This year’s celebration was organized by the Industrial Liaison Council, Ghana (ILCG), whose tripartite membership comprise the ICU, the Ghana Mine Workers’ Union (GMWU), and the Ghana Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers’ Union (GTPCWU), on the theme: ‘From Decent Work to Precarious Work: The Case of the Ghanaian Worker.’
Mr Kotei, who is also the Chairman of the ILCG, pointed out that the gradual and steady conversion of decent to precarious work, was becoming more and more worrying to trade union organizations, academics, and many labour-friendly organizations the world over.
He said it was regrettable that Ghana’s laws were silent on what constituted decent work, thus opening the floodgates for this phenomenon to reach a fever pitch.
He said the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) concept of ‘Decent Work Agenda’ comprised four inter-related and mutually inclusive objectives, namely, creating employment, guaranteeing the recognition and respect of international labour standards, extending social protection, and promoting social dialogue.
Mr Kotei explained that in line with the ILO’s concept, ‘Decent Work’ could be described as work that was productive, gave fair income, security at the workplace, and social protection for the family, equal opportunities and treatment, better prospects for personal employment and social integration, freedom to organize and participate in decision-making.
He was quick to point out, however, that the conversion of decent to precarious work had endangered work and deprived workers of their rights, like freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
The ILCG Chairman described precarious workers as those who filled permanent job needs, but were denied permanent employee rights.
“Globally these workers are subject to unstable employment, lower wages and more dangerous working conditions.
They rarely receive social benefits and are often denied the right to join a union.
Even when they have the right to unionize, workers are scared to organize if they know they are easily replaceable, “Mr Kotei explained.
He said the first indicator of precarious work in the country is earnings, adding that here we look at those who are poorly paid.
This, he said, included those earning the minimum wage and less, and also those whose earnings were above the minimum standard, but below a designated level.
Mr Kotei said the second and third indicators of precarious work were the non-wage of compensation given to the worker, and the extent or degree of regulatory protection afforded to workers.
Touching on the form and shape of precarious work in the country, the ICU Secretary General said a lot of employers were using all kinds of subterfuge, like reorganization, amalgamation, take-overs, outsourcing to concentrate on core business, among others, to unjustly retrench workers.
“They do this mainly to cut down on operational costs and maximize profits at the expense of workers.
They then, in collusion with some employment agencies, re-recruit the retrenched workers back into the same company as casual, temporary or contract workers,” he pointed out.
Mr Kotei said unjustifiably these retrenched workers re-recruited as casuals, temporary or contract workers, “are made to do the same work, and work for the same number of hours as the so-called ‘permanent’ workers, but with diminution in salaries/wages and deprivation of social insurance and protection, among other social benefits.”
On the employment of casual and temporary workers, the ILCG Chairman said evidently, some employers were abusing that privilege to employ, by giving a ‘permanent’ status to their usage in contravention of the Labour Act, so much so that some casual and temporary workers had worked in some organizations continuously for over 10 years, without being treated as permanent workers in flagrant violation of the Act.