As government proposes a new law that will back its resolve not to pay striking workers, a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, Dr Amponsah Tawiah has indicated that, it is illegal for government not to pay the salaries of public sector workers embarking on an industrial action.
It's illegal to freeze striking workers’ salaries – Dr Amponsah Tawiah
About five labour unions went on strike this year to seek redress for a number of issues including salary arrears, pensions, codification and improvement in condition of services – some of which took three weeks.
Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, has proposed that a future law must put a 72-hour ceiling on the duration of strikes. According to him, prolonged industrial actions affect productivity.
He told parliament that, “Our Constitution guarantees freedom of association and we do recognize the right of workers to push home their demand to the withdrawal of their services… But government will soon appear before this house for a policy review on strike actions generally. The law that provides for lawful actions and we have those that may be illegal or unlawful pending its determination by the National Labour Commission… If workers want to go on strike action, they can do so and government will respect it but they should do so within a limited time period.”
“I will think that in future Parliament should support us to legislate that you may not be on strike action beyond 72 hours but you can for purposes of driving home your demand withdraw your services. Within 48 to 72 hours, it’s important that you return to work because it affects productivity,” Hon Iddrissu added.
The Minister addressing a forum in Accra also advised Labour to consider setting up a fund to support workers when they embark on such actions. According to him, the government will not be paying striking workers.
“We are encouraging labour unions particularly those within the public sector of Ghana to begin to develop strike funds and renew and revise their policies on strike and they should be ready to pay whilst they continue on strike,” he said.
However, Dr Amponsah Tawiah on Neat FM’s on Wednesday said the effect of the strike action on productivity should make employers do everything possible to avert the situation. According to him, once an industrial action is legitimate, no sanctions should be meted out to striking workers.
“It is illegitimate not to pay striking workers. It is their right to embark on a strike action. It is only when the strike is not legitimate that you can sanction them. In any case, if it is not legitimate, it is not up to government to say it won’t pay them. There are procedures,” he said.
READ MORE: > GMA conditions of service still hangs in the balance
Touching on the prolonged nature of the strikes, Dr Amponsah Tawiah said, “Both parties contribute to the prolonged actions. It is not about how long the strike is; it is about how legitimate it is. The logic of zero productivity is right. That is why employees should ensure that they do everything possible to prevent any such action and put in place measures to resolve it immediately. It beholds on the employer to ensure that the strike is pre-empted” adding, “employees are not happy about strike actions.”
Dr Amponsah Tawiah called for a harmonious relationship between employers and employees at all times. He stated that organisations should get qualified Human Resource managers who are able to resolve issues amicably and timely.
READ MORE: > We have no regrets embarking on strike – GMA
The human resource expert advised employers not to focus on the duration of the strike and the punishment to mete out to employees since, “strike actions may take various forms. Individuals can be in the organisation but slow the process.”
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