Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Solution for Ghana's labour problems

By Poku Adaa

Workers within Ghana's public services and in state enterprises are being laid off in large numbers. The cost of redundancy payments are staggering... our correspondent reports on the scale of labour cuts in the country.
Labour cuts is labour cuts. Shedding of labour is simply that. In Ghana, however, the exercise of making people unemployed is variously and beautifully described as "Manpower reduction," "labour redeployment", "Public Services restructuring" "Voluntary retirement", "Voluntary redeployment", etc etc.

The policy of government to shed labour within Ghana's Public and Civil Services and in State Enterprises was launched in March last year under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour working through two organisations, the Public Administration Restructur- ing and Decentralisation Implementa- tion Committee (PARDIC) and the Manpower Utilisation Committee (MUC). These two organisations jointly maintain Implementation & Monitoring Committees at the various workplaces to actually oversee the shedding of labour.

By far the largest level of labour cuts is taking place within the Ghana Cocoa Board which has been allocated a target of laying off 19,120 workers within two years at a cost of C2.3 billion. The first batch of 6,000 workers lost their jobs at the end of October 1984 under the guise of voluntary retirement after receiving C600 million in payments of entitlements.

Flt-Lt Atiemo, Chairman of the Ghana Cocoa Board Implementation and Monitoring Committee has been reported as saying that the affected workers should consider themselves as fully retired until they are considered for a possible re-engagement after two to three years.

The State Construction Corporation (SCC) is shedding over 1,000 workers at a cost of nearly C13 million which is meant to be used for payment of gratuity, long service awards and severance pay. The sad fact is that though the workers have been forced to quit their jobs, the payments due them are being delayed because the SCC has no money until its debtors pay up. Meanwhile the MUC which has the official responsibility to "restructure the public services", has been reported to be negotiating for money to pay the SCC ex-workers until the Corporation collects its arrears.

As part of government measures to make the national shipping line, the Black Star Line (BSL) economically viable and save it from total collapse, BSL has been ordered to make 535 workers redundant leaving about 500 to man the Line's remaining seven vessels with total pay-out to the shed labour amounting to about C45 million.

In its first batch of redundancies, the Ghana National Trading Corporation (GNTC) has voluntarily retired 1,200 workers at a cost of nearly C34 million. By the time the next batch quit their jobs, the GNTC labour strength would have been reduced from over 6,000 to around 4,000 which according to official sources close to the Corporation "will leave the GNTC with a reasonable figure to assure its viability".

It has been government intention, as far as one could make out, to persuade those affected by voluntary retirement to branch into privately-run ventures, preferably agriculture, although the Manpower Utilisation Committee has, on the available evidence so far failed to woo any appreciable number of 'retired persons' to go back to the land.

Apart from these, about 5,000 workers in many public organisations have been reported as "willing to retire" on the advice of the MUC which distributes redundancy forms to workers coaxing them to choose new retirement occupations. Again nearly 15,000 Civil Servants drawn from clerical and executive grades are being re-deployed to the rural areas to man Village and Town Councils. About 80% of those affected are reported to have vowed to collect their entitlements and quit the Service rather than go on enforced transfer to some remote settlements.

There are also the less spectacular unemployment statistics such as the 150 dismissed employees of the Department of Civil Aviation and the 500 redundant workers of the Clinker Plant, CIMAO, the three nation partnership venture facing collapse in Togo.

Throughout all these tiers of labour cuts, the Ghana Trades Union Congress is apparently unshaken, despite the fact that the toll of "redeployment" casualties is on the increase. That underpins the continuous disintegration of the WDC/PDC power edifice which culminated in their being re-organised recently. Anyhow, the TUC is resigned to assist affected workers to claim what is due them which of course amounts to the fact that the TUC agrees with government that cutting labour is necessary for the nation's economic recovery.

There are speculations within Civil Service circles as to the real reason for this action against workers who form the political support of the ruling Council. Speculations are rife that the IMF or the Donors at last year's Loans-seeking Paris conference imposed a definite condition about substantial cuts in labour as a way to reduce wages and salaries bills and wipe away idleness within the system.

Another speculation is that the State Enterprises Study Project currently conducting studies into the operations of public corporations and institutions may have recommended the mass shedding of labour to ensure their viability. Or simply the government could not cope with or deal with the widespread apathy to wage-earning jobs and the decreasing levels of productivity on a national scale.

It has been government intention, as far as one could make out, to persuade those affected by voluntary retirement to branch into privately-run ventures preferably agriculture although the Manpower Utilisation Committee has, on the available evidence so far, failed to woo any appreciable number of "retired persons" to go back to the land.

The much needed coordination between the Manpower Utilisation Committee and the National Mobilisation Committee broke down or was non-existent from the on-set. Right now the situation is unclear except that more and more are losing their jobs..

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