The incessant use of strikes by various labour unions to press home their demand for better conditions of service has been described as a “dangerous weapon” which can seriously affect the development of the country.
The Executive Secretary of the National Labour Commission (NLC), Ofosu Asamoah, who made this assertion, said timely interventions by the commission to stop some of the strikes through dialogue had saved the country a great deal from the ‘bites’ of strikes because they could have been disastrous had they been allowed to continue.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic last Tuesday, Mr Asamoah said the use of dialogue should be the most important tool for the parties.
Effects of strike
“Both parties must make a conscious effort to settle these labour issues without arriving at the point where strikes, most of which are illegal, become the option to get the government to act.
“Strikes affect the country a lot. We don’t need to be told about this. When strikes occur, production ceases and government loses a lot of money. Meanwhile, these workers who are on strike need to be paid at the end of the month, and this draws the country back in terms of productivity,” the NLC boss bemoaned.
He said the timely intervention by the NLC stopped a strike by the Meteorological Service, which he said could have had very serious repercussions for the aviation sector, as the work of the service was very critical in the management of flights in the country.
Go for negotiation
The government, Mr Asamoah pointed out, also sometimes had the challenge of not keeping to the terms of agreements and that resulted in grievances, leading to strikes.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to also deliver on its promise.
“Parties should always try to negotiate. And when they arrive at an agreement, they must always endeavour to meet their side of the agreement to keep a peaceful labour front”, he said.
The executive secretary said there had been occasions when the commission, which is mandated to facilitate and settle labour disputes, was not even aware of the issues and then strikes were declared.
“Some labour unions do not even engage us to settle their labour issues; then the next moment, you hear about them declaring strikes. It should not be so; we cannot develop a nation like this because when labour unions go on strike, they hold society to ransom and this cannot continue if we want to move forward as a nation,” he said.
He appealed to various unions to use the processes available to get their issues resolved.
He denied perceptions that the NLC was in bed with government and so was always hard on the unions, using the courts to frustrate their actions to demand better conditions, saying that the commission had handled many cases which had ended in a win-win situation.
Mr Asamoah said the NLC had realised that many people, especially leaders of labour unions, did not understand the laws governing labour in the country and even the composition of the commission and, therefore, needed education.
In view of that, he said, the commission would carry out a series of education this year for people to understand the laws and know what to do when they had labour issues.
“We will host a labour conference from February 28 to March 1 at the Rock City Hotel, Kwahu-Nkwatia. We expect 200 participants from the government side, office of the President, parliamentary committee, finance, ministry of employment, education, organised labour, media and private organisations,” he said.
“People must understand the issues to help deal with these agitations, which sometimes are illegal. As the executive secretary, I don’t take decisions; the decisions are taken by the commission and people must know all these to inform them about how to handle their issues,” he added.
Explaining why the commission normally went to court to reverse strikes, Mr Asamoah said: “We don’t take delight in rushing to the court, but in cases where the strikes are illegal and the unions are not ready to comply with, go into negotiations or abide by agreements from negotiations, the law mandates us to go to court because we don’t have the punitive powers to apply sanctions.”