September 21, 2021
Business

COVID-19: Labour Unions Want Tripartite Engagement On The Pl …

Three labour unions have called for an immediate tripartite engagement on the plight of workers in the wake of the economic hardship the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has visited on businesses.

The unions are the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU).

Speaking separately to the Daily Graphic, they observed that although businesses were in a dire financial situation following the pandemic, any decision on the fate of workers should be taken through consensus reports Timothy Ngnenbe.

That, they said, would require a tripartite engagement between the government, employers and workers on the best way forward.

They, however, called on the government to release the stimulus package for businesses early enough to prevent further job losses.

COVID-19 impact

With April coming to an end, some employers and employees are concerned about the payment of salaries as the coronavirus continues to bite.

Already operators of hotels and airlines have sent their workers home because of low patronage of their services.

Some businesses are also offering salary cuts to their employees.

TUC

In his contribution on the issue, the Director of Research and Policy at the TUC, Mr Kwabena Nyarko Otoo, stressed that any move by employers to unilaterally decide the fate of workers would be dangerous.

“Even though we empathise with the employers in this challenging moment, what the TUC is saying is that we need a tripartite action involving employers, employees and the government on the way forward.

He noted that within the tripartite framework, it was possible that the government could find some resources to support the employers to help them pay the employees or the parties could meet each other half way.

Mr Otoo observed that it was not prudent for employers to disengage their relationship with workers at this critical moment because it would be difficult to pick up the pieces when the pandemic eventually faded off.

Touching on the issue of pay cuts, he said although it could be one of the possibilities on the table for tripartite engagement, more favourable options needed to be considered.

ICU

For his part, the Secretary General of the ICU, Mr Solomon Kotei, stressed that it was wrong for employers to unilaterally lay off workers because such a tendency defeated the principles of the social contract both parties had entered into.

On the issue of pay cuts, he said the engagements would create the opportunity for the parties to know the circumstances of the employer; the nature of work and the capacity of the employer to determine if there was the need for down-sizing salaries of workers.

Touching on the issue of some proprietors of private schools who have reportedly sent workers home, he said since those schools thrived on fees paid by students, it was difficult to keep the teachers when educational institutions had been closed down.

GFL

While acknowledging that dialogue was key at this critical time, the General Secretary of the GFL, Mr Abraham Koomson, said the government’s intervention was what would take businesses out of the woods.

He noted that none of the parties in the social contract between employers and employees was liable for the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses.

In that regard, he called on the government to immediately step in to save the businesses from collapsing and also prevent job losses.

“What we are saying is that the government has a responsibility to protect businesses and that is why we want action to be expedited on the stimulus package for businesses,” he stressed.

He added that the GFL was finalising processes to table a proposal to the government on the impact of COVID-19 on labour with the hope of getting prompt action to address the challenges.

Private schools worried

Meanwhile, the Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS) has said that it has written to the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance for a stimulus package to support over 400,000 members, especially teachers, reports Emmanuel Bonney.

It said that had become necessary following the closure of schools.

“We want to get something for our teachers since we have not been operating for over a month now as most of the schools were not able to collect their fees so the government would have to come to their aid,” the Executive Director of the GNACOPS, Mr Enoch Gyetua, told the Daily Graphic.

Lawyers worried

Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson writes that following the partial lockdown, the Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah, suspended the hearing of all cases with the exception of those relating to the violation of the partial lockdown. After the lockdown, the Chief Justice reverted to his earlier directive for judges to only hear urgent cases and also grant long adjournments.

Some lawyers who spoke to the Daily Graphic said the directives by the Chief Justice although necessary have had a negative impact on their businesses.

Mr Jerry John said there was no layoffs in his law firm “but we have been forced to delay salaries and other statutory payments.”

Another lawyer, Mr Francis Xavier Sosu, said most clients were unable to pay for legal services due to COVID-19.

“Retainer clients have also complained that no substantial work happened during the lockdown and, therefore, they are unwilling to pay agreed retainer fees,” he said.

Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor reports from Kumasi that the Director of Salve Regina School at Abuakwa Canaan, Mrs Lucy Addai-Poku, said last month, they managed to pay their staff full salary but was not sure the same would happen this month.

She said the whole of this month, the teachers did not work but it would not be fair not to give them anything as it was not their fault that schools were closed down.

From Sunyani, Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah and Biiya Mukusah Ali report that the Sunyani Municipal Chairman of the Ghana National Association of Private Schools, Mr Yeboah Peprah, told the Daily Graphic that most members of the association relied on loans and fees from students to run their schools.

He said some schools in the municipality were able to make full payment of salaries to the teaching and non-teaching staff last month while others managed with part payments.

“This month and subsequent months, payment of teachers’ salaries has become a headache as the banks have refused to grant us loans due to our inability to pay back the loans”, he stated.

Shirley Asiedu-Addo reports from Cape Coast that the Manager of Ridge Royal Hotel, Mr Samuel Obiri Aduamah, indicated that though staff salaries were paid in full in March, that would not happen in April.

“We have kept a skeletal staff like security, cleaners and a few others to manage the facility. The rest have been asked to go home,” he stated.

From Bolgatanga, Vincent Amenuveve writes that authorities of some private schools and those in the hospitality industry in the Upper East Region are appealing to the government to consider including them in the stimulus package in order to save their businesses from collapse.

They said they could no longer pay their workers let alone operate at full capacity.

And in Tamale, some private schools in the metropolis will not be able to pay the full salaries of both teaching and non-teaching staff of their schools for April, reports Samuel Duodu.

The Proprietor/Director of Elsie Lund Schools, Mr Ofori Amponsah, said: ” In this situation we do not know where to raise money from to pay the salaries of our staff for the month of April.”

The Northern Regional Chairman of the Hotels Association, Mr Cosmos Alhassan, said the association had 60 members and all the hotels had laid off their workers as they were not in operation.

From Sekondi/Takoradi, Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu reports that the Chairman of Private Schools Association in the region, Mr Charles Mintaba, said: “The truth is that many of the children went home with their school fees. Meanwhile, we have teachers and other administrative staff to pay as well as other overheads,” he said.

He said some members of the association had resolved to pay half of March and April salaries and pay the rest upon resumption of school.

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