“To develop and sustain a peaceful and harmonious industrial relations environment through the use of effective dispute resolution practices, promotion of co-operation among the labour market players and mutual respect for their rights and responsibilities.”
In so far as the Labour Act, 2003, (Act 651) has repealed seventeen other laws and has set up a body to settle industrial disputes and the National Labour Commission (NLC) has survived certain teething problems to date, we can only state that the change has been healthy.
We are now in a position to do an introspection, weigh the challenges, and suggest solutions to justify the new environment in labour relations.
Overtime, the vision of the framers of the law should be realized when there is less friction on the labour landscape, jobs increase and wealth is created.
We know that, the Taft Hartley Law on Labour in the United States of America after the Second World War, helped to minimize strikes in the USA. That end should be ours when the law has worked over the four-year term given to the current Members of the Commission.
The National Labour Commission started work at a critical stage in the landscape of industrial relations in the country. Despite this, it has been able to accomplish substantial work during this brief period covering its five (5) key functions as spelt out in the Labour Act 651.
There were a number of successful resolutions of disputes whilst at the same time, there were some critical challenges encountered.
A number of lessons have been gathered which will help inform and improve the Commission’s work in the current year. Already, steps have been taken to implement some of these ideas.
The success of the Commission will depend not only on the effort put in by the Members of the Commission, but also on the support of the stakeholders and their willingness to comply with the provisions of the Act. The Commission is hopeful that it can count on the continuous support of the Social Partners and that a possible impact on the industrial relations climate is achievable in the shortest time.
This Report covering the period April 6, 2005 to December 31, 2005, is in fulfillment of Section 151 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) which provides as follows:
“(1) The Commission shall, within eight months after the end of each financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report on the activities of the Commission during that year.
(2) The report shall include a copy of the audited accounts of the Commission in respect of the financial year and the report of the Auditor-General or the auditor appointed by the Auditor-General on the audited accounts.
(3) The Minister shall within two months of the receipt of the annual report from the Commission submit the report to Parliament with such comments as the Minister considers necessary.”
1.1 The Context: Ghana’s Industrial Relations Scene during Report Period
During the reporting period, the country had just started the implementation of the Labour Act, 2003, Act 651 which had codified all the labour laws into one single statute. Before this time, there were a number of laws scattered in various pieces of legislation governing industrial relations in Ghana. Notable among them were the Industrial Relations Act 299 of 1965 and the Labour Decree of 1967. In all, seventeen laws were repealed, except the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328), and the Workmen’s Compensation Law, 1987 (PNDCL 187). During this time, the management of industrial relations and the settlement of industrial disputes were done by the Ministry responsible for Labour through its Labour Department.
1.2 The Labour Act 2003, (Act 651)
In the year 1995, the Social Partners – Government, Employers and Organized Labour developed the idea to codify all the laws relating to labour into one single statute. It was during this same year that consultations for the development of a new law began. The main objective of a new labour law was for the promotion of a harmonious industrial relations environment.
The passage and operationalizaton of the Law were as follows:
Passed by Parliament on 25th July, 2003
Presidential Assent on 8th October, 2003
Gazetted on 10th October, 2003
Operational Gazette on 5th March, 2004
Operationalized by Executive Instrument (E.I. 3) on 31st March, 2004
Some or the innovations in the Labour Law were that it was in conformity with the provisions on industrial relations under the 1992 Constitution as well as relevant International Labour Standards, such as equal pay for equal work, hours of work and freedom of association. The law also drew a distinction between Casual and Temporary work, legalized the National Tripartite Committee and also provided for the creation of Private Employment Centres. The law removed the “master-servant” relationship that was hitherto the case. In Act 651, even though the employer reserved the “right to hire and fire”, the law required that, in cases of firing employees, the employer should assign reasons. These were but some of the innovations in the Labour Act 651.
1.3 Establishment of the National Labour Commission (NLC)
The Labour Act 651 called for the establishment of an independent tripartite National Labour Commission. This was provided for in Section 135 of the Act which states: “There is established by this Act a National Labour Commission referred to in this Act as the ‘Commission.”
Composition of the Commission
Section 135 of the Act spells out the composition of the Commission -
“(a) a chairperson who shall be nominated by the employers’ organization and organized labour except that where there is failure to nominate a chairperson within sixty days as provided, the employers’ organization in consultation with organized labour shall submit the matter to a mediator agreed on by them; and
(b) six representatives, two each nominated by the Government, employers’ organization and organized labour.”
Membership of the Commission
The Commission consisted of Members who were nominated as follows:
(Chairman – Nominated by Employers and Organized Labour)
Mr. Joseph A. Aryitey - Chairperson (Government)
Opanin Patrick Obeng-Fosu - Member
Dr. (Mrs.) Eugenia Date-Bah - Member
Mr. Kwasi Danso-Acheampong - Member
Mr. Paul Osei-Mensah - Member (Employers)
Mrs. Angelina M. Domakyaareh - Member
Mr. Dan Acheampong - Member
Appointment, Swearing-In and Inauguration of Members of the Commission
In keeping with Section 136 (2) of the Labour Act, on the 6th of April, 2005, H.E. President J.A. Kufuor swore and appointed into office the seven-member body of the Commission. The Swearing-In of the Members of the Commission was followed by an Inaugural Ceremony at the Offices of the Commission, which was attended by representatives of the social partners, members of the Press, representatives of the Development Partners and stakeholders in the labour market.
The President in his inaugural address described the establishment of the National Labour Commission as a hallmark in the industrial and labour relations landscape in the country. He noted that, industrial peace and harmony was the key to the attainment of accelerated economic growth and prosperity.
The President noted that, the achievement of a sound labour environment was the development of appropriate legal framework that would ensure the protection of both the employer and employee. He pledged Government’s continuous support in facilitating good labour-management relations and called on the social partners to respect and appreciate each other’s roles and responsibilities for the achievement of a sound labour environment.
Response by the Chairperson of the Commission
Below are excerpts from the Address of the Chairperson in response to the President’s Inaugural Speech.
“INHERENT CONFLICT IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
Sir, it is common knowledge that industrial relations cannot be completely devoid of conflict as in many human relationships. Because the interests of organized labour and employers’ organization continue to be at variance so long shall we have or see many differences resulting in conflicts. Whereas vendors of skills will be comfortable with an existing situation based on their economic interests and contractual benefits, so long will owners of capital continue to desire a change in their enterprises with a view to optimum achievement and profit.
We on the Commission expect that whenever the two sides to an employment relationship cannot agree on any issue on employment or non-employment, the roadmap to a peaceful settlement laid down under the law will he respected and followed to achieve the aims which will promote a peaceful industrial atmosphere. This will be necessary for the individual worker, the employer and the nation. Employment is key to any nation’s progress and development, and an institution like the National Labour Commission to oversee the settlement of industrial disputes outside the regular courts is most welcome. Such an institution should assist in the advancement of democratic concepts even in the work place. That should take away many labour issues from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the courts on employment. Egalitarian ideas are liberally captured in the law which sets up the Commission in which all interested sides have participated.
EXPECTATIONS AND EDUCATION
The objective of the Commission will be achieved when the challenges are identified timeously and addressed. Also there should be education of the employer as well as the worker as to the rights, duties and institutions the law has provided to address these concerns if we must avoid the use of old tactics to address new issues.
A well informed workforce or employer will comply with the provisions in Act 651 because for almost 7 years, various persons and institutions have shaped several drafts of a bill which Parliament eventually debated and passed on 25th July, 2003 into law.
Some of the 17 laws repealed by the enactment dating from the Gold Coast days to the post independence era did not have the benefit of the rigorous debate which Act 651 was subjected to. The enactment has evolved out of such debate. All sides have made concessions so that all sides should be ready, willing and obedient to the rules set.
Whereas the old laws demanded a dispute settlement via the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, now the Labour Commission is at the apex of such settlement and is outside the ambit of the Ministry. Indeed a cloak of independence is put on the Commission which all must know about and uphold.
It is gratifying to note that this legislation has been facilitated by the predecessor of the current Government and passed by Parliament of 2003. At no stage of the passage did we hear of any serious disagreement with the provisions of the law. We therefore trust that we can count on the goodwill and co-operation of all in the discharge of our responsibilities. Your Excellency expects quality decisions from the Commission by the proper and common understanding as well as interpretation of same. We shall endeavour to promote justice in industrial relations whenever an issue comes under our juridical eye but we demand understanding and cooperation from all stakeholders. We trust that will be forthcoming from government, employers’ organizations and organized labour. We have faith in St. Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:8 that in discharging our duties
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.
We shall think about such things.
By such standards we promise to go. May the decisions of the Commission in its pioneering work help to create a desirable atmosphere for industrial relations in Ghana. Once more, thank you for the appointments you have made to the 1st Commission under Act 651. May He who is able to keep us from falling guide us by His Spirit to meet the noble expectations.”
Inaugural Address by the Hon. Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment
Below are excerpts from the Address of Mr. Joseph Kofi Adda, Hon. Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment.
“It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all to the outdooring of this new outfit, i.e. the National Labour Commission whose establishment you have all in diverse ways contributed to. For me, the National Labour Commission is a clear manifestation of the co-operation between government and its social partners, employers and organized Labour.
Mr. Chairman, this government has placed Employment, Human Resource Development and Wealth Creation as focal points of its economic policy. Crucial to the achievement of this objective are increased private sector investment as well as improved productivity and efficiency at the enterprise level. Industrial peace and harmony are obviously key to the survival of the enterprise and therefore the attainment of accelerated economic growth and prosperity.
Mr. Chairman, it is often said that the quality of justice depends as much on the quality of the law as on the quality of those who administer it. If we are to have the maximum benefit from Act 651, then all of us – social partners, human resource managers, industrial relations practitioners but particularly the Commissioners, must commit ourselves not only to making the law work, but to getting a proper and common understanding and knowledge of the provisions of the law.”
Summary of the Key Points in Addresses of the Social Partners – Ghana Employers’ Association and Organized Labour
All the social partners in their addresses pledged their support to ensuring that, the law which was a “consensus law”, worked to the benefit of both the employer and employee. They called on the Commission to assert its independence and also to ensure that, cases brought before it were treated fairly and with dispatch, as this was the only way that the Commission’s neutrality and confidence would be maintained.
2.0 MAIN ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL LABOUR COMMISSION
2.1 Processes towards the Facilitation of the Settlement of Industrial Disputes
a) Nomination of the Deputy Chairperson
In keeping with Section 140 (2) of the Labour Act, the Members of the Commission at their first meeting, nominated the Deputy Chairperson, in the person of Mr. Kwasi Danso-Acheampong.
b) Constitution of Standing Committees
The Commission has constituted the following Standing Committees. Each of the Committees was tripartite in nature. These were:
Finance and Administration
c) Development of Mission Statement
The Commission immediately after assuming office saw it as a priority to develop a Mission Statement to guide its operations as shown at page 1 of this document.
d) Draft Regulations for Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration
Section 152 (1) of the Labour Act provides that “The Commission may by legislative instrument make regulations providing for (a) the procedure for negotiation, mediation and arbitration proceedings……, and (b) other matters for the effective discharge of its functions under this Act.”
In response to this, the Commission developed its Regulations for Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration. The document spelt out the mechanisms for labour disputes settlement under the Act. The document has been drafted by the Attorney-General’s Department and is ready to be laid before Parliament for passage.
e) Development of Complaints Database
The Commission established a database for the compilation of petitions and complaints. The database categorized the cases according to the name of the petitioner or petitioners, the respondent and the subject matter of the complaint.
f) Capacity Building for Members of the Commission
Before officially assuming office, Members of the Commission held a three-day retreat from the 12-14 April 2005 at the Manna Heights Hotel, Mankessim to have an overview of the provisions of the Labour Act, (Act 651) and to map out strategies for their operations.
g) Sensitization Workshops and Seminars
Since full familiarity with the provisions of the Law was vital for the stakeholders’ effective compliance with it, the Commission invested time and resources on sensitization workshops and training seminars. The beneficiaries of the various workshops were from the underlisted bodies and organizations:
i) Media Personnel from both the print and electronic media on 16th June 2005 at the Erata Hotel, East Legon, Accra.
ii) Justices of the Judiciary nationwide - Justices of the High Court, Fast Track High Court, Circuit and Community Tribunals. The workshop was facilitated by His Lordship, (Dr.) Justice Seth Twum of the Supreme Court and it was held at the M-Plaza Hotel, Accra on 4th August, 2006.
iii) Senior Media Personnel from both the electronic and print media. It was held on 31st July, 2005 at the Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra.
iv) Women members of the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD) held at the GNAT Hall, Accra on 25th October, 2005.
v) Members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Accra on 12th December, 2005.
h) Regional Tours
During the period under review, the Members of the Commission embarked on Regional Tours to eight (8) regions as follows:
q Eastern - 13th September
q Volta - 13th September
q Central - 20th September
q Western - 21st September
q Brong Ahafo - 2nd November
q Ashanti - 4th November
q Upper West - 9th November
q Upper East - 10th November
The meetings were hosted by the Regional Administrations in the respective regions and were attended by representatives of all the social partners.
The purpose of the meetings was to introduce the Members of the Commission to the stakeholders and to inform them about the work of the Commission. The visits also afforded the opportunity for the Members of the Commission to sensitize the stakeholders on:
q Background to the Labour Act
q The key provisions of the Act
q The Functions and Independence of the Labour Commission
q The Role of the Commission in Industrial Dispute Settlement.
In each of the regions visited, the meetings recorded about 100 participants in attendance. The meetings were normally preceded by courtesy calls on the Regional Ministers.
The meetings which were very interactive offered the opportunity for very frank and open discussions. Participants called on the Commission to consider opening offices in the respective regions for the speedy resolution of disputes in order to ensure peaceful industrial relations climate in the regions. Participants also called on the Commission to endeavour to maintain its neutrality in order to gain the confidence of its clients.
i) Setting up of a Database of Mediators and Arbitrators
Training of Mediators and Arbitrators
The Dispute Settlement Mechanism of the Labour Act provided in Section 154 that, the next stage of dispute settlement after negotiation was Mediation. To be able to understand the mediation process, the Commission organized a one-week training course on mediation and arbitration for persons who met certain qualifications. These trained persons were to be maintained in the database of the Commission as Mediators and Arbitrators. The workshop was organized at the Chances Hotel, Ho from July 17-23 2005.
The training was held in collaboration with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) of USA. The workshop exposed the trainees to the techniques in mediation and arbitration and their benefits as well as the processes involved and they also participated in group role-plays. Generally, the workshop exposed the participants to the mechanisms in industrial dispute settlement. In all, sixty (60) Persons underwent the training, out of which forty-two (42) were shortlisted and they have been maintained in the database of the Commission.
Categorization of Mediators and Arbitrators into Classes
The trained Mediators and Arbitrators have been classified into categories of “A”, “B” and “C” depending on their qualification, experience, knowledge and background in industrial relations, labour laws and human resource management. However, not all the mediators and arbitrators on the list underwent the training. This was because, even before the training, the Commission was faced with some mediation cases and so had to identify some human relations practitioners knowledgeable in labour-management relations to assist in the settlement of those cases. We intend that, these persons would participate in subsequent refresher training courses.
From this list, disputants selected mediators/arbitrators who were subsequently appointed by the Commission and they facilitated the settlement of the disputes.
j) Commission’s Legislative Instrument supported by the Minister of Labour’s Legislative Instrument (L.I.)
The Commission developed its Legislative Instrument and forwarded it to the Attorney-General’s Department. However, the law also required the Minister responsible for Labour to get a Legislative Instrument to operationalize some provisions of Act 651. Two of such provisions are on the declaration of some services as “Essential Services” and the establishment of Private Employment Agencies.
It is therefore important that, the Minister’s L.I. is done on time to complement that of the Commission to make the application of the law very effective.
2.2 Settlement of Industrial Disputes
a) No. of Complaints/Petitions Received
For the period under review, five hundred and forty-eight (548) complaints and petitions were received by the Commission. The cases were made up of both individual and collective disputes, but individual cases were in the majority. Out of the total number of cases received, about 50% were nearing completion, 21% fully settled and 29% were undergoing the process of resolution.
b) Classification of Complaints/Petitions Received
The breakdown of the cases received was as follows:
TOTAL NUMBER OF CASES RECEIVED = 548
Nature of Cases
Percentage over the total No.
Retirement/End of Service Benefits
Others (non-payment of social security, non-compliance with signed agreements, etc.)
c) Treatment of Cases
Even before the development of the Regulations of the Commission, the Commission developed some internal rules for the handling of cases. Most of the cases were summarily dealt with by the Commission through mediation, i.e. by the Commission intervening to draw respondents attention to a violation of their Collective Agreement or Contract of Employment, where this was the case, or a violation of Act 651, where there was no contract of employment. In still other instances, the Commission played a mediatory role in having the cases resolved, especially for individual disputes. In some cases also, where the Commission realized that, the internal dispute settlement procedures had not been fully exhausted, the Commission directed the parties to go back to observe fully, those procedures, and if at the end, the matter still remained unresolved, then referral to the Commission would be appropriate.
In most instances, where the case was a complex one, the Commission wrote to the respondent with a copy of the petition and all attachments from the complainant and the respondent was required to respond within fourteen (14) days on receipt of such documents, according to our procedures, before the determination of the case. However, in cases where the Commission found it appropriate, a meeting was held between the two parties for the Hearing Process, after which a ruling was made.
d) The Compliance Level
On the whole, it could be said that, the compliance level as regards rulings and decisions of the Commission was about 85%. This was because in some cases, the respondents, who were mostly employers, on realizing that the matter had been referred to the Commission, settled the case through negotiation, whilst in other cases, the Commission handled the issue itself. On the non-compliance level, the default had mostly been with government-sector employment. This may perhaps be due to the fact that, agreements were signed without approved mandates which made the implementation practically difficult or impossible.
e) Cases in Court
A few of the cases went to court, especially in the areas of enforcement, because in some situations, the affected parties had failed to comply with the rulings of the Commission.
f) Work accomplished through Mediation and Voluntary Arbitration
For the period under review, the Commission received eleven (11) Mediation Cases. Out of these, four of the cases went through the mediation processes where settlements were reached, two of the cases were near completion, whilst five were withdrawn at the commencement of the process, because the parties opted to revisit the negotiation process for settlement, and they were successful. The process of mediation was to allow a Mediator to facilitate the settlement in order to reach an agreement which would be owned by the two parties to avoid any labour unrest.
One case was handled at Arbitration. This case was initially referred to the Commission for mediation, and all the issues were settled except one issue, which was also settled through Voluntary Arbitration.
g) Successful Resolutions of Complaints
For the period under review, the Commission successfully mediated a case involving the Management of SG-SSB and the Union. This disagreement was going to lead to a nation-wide strike action by the workers. Even though, the staff of the Head Office of SG-SSB Ltd. embarked on a “go slow” work attitude on the proposed day of the strike, the Commission successfully mediated and the matter was resolved.
Another case involved Ghana Printing and Packaging Industries Limited. The management as a result of an impasse between them and the union intended to dismiss all the workers because they embarked on a one day “illegal strike” to protest against the dismissal of one of their colleagues whom management described as very militant. In reaction to the workers’ action, management locked out all the workers who took part in the action and asked them to re-apply for their positions. After examining the case the Commission saw the matter as a negotiable one and advised the two sides to settle at negotiation. The two sides heeded the advice and resolved the matter at negotiation.
h) Challenging Disputes
Whilst acknowledging the fact that, the Commission chalked some successes with respect to the settlement of cases, some challenges were encountered, one of which has been highlighted below:
National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT)
Parliament passed the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) in July 2003 to regulate industrial relations practice and for the promotion of a harmonious industrial relations environment in the country. The Act also created the National Labour Commission to facilitate and settle industrial disputes in accordance with procedures spelt out in the Act. It was in the discharge of this mandate that the Commission took steps to facilitate the settlement of the dispute between the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and Ghana Education Service (GES).
It came to light during the intervention by the Commission that NAGRAT had not cloaked itself properly under the provisions of the law in order to enjoy the rights and powers, including the right to negotiate, conferred under the law. However, the Commission, anxious about the timing of the strike action and the desire to get students prepared for the July 2005 Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE), advised NAGRAT to go back to the negotiating table immediately by constituting a Joint Standing Negotiating Committee (JSNC) with Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) to negotiate the issues that affected that class of workers.
NAGRAT rejected the advice and continued with the strike action until the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education stepped in. Unfortunately, instead of the Parliamentary Select Committee asking NAGRAT to comply with the provisions of the law, it rather acted as a broker and invited the two parties to negotiate.
For the period under review, the following strikes were recorded. Each of these strikes was illegal, as the due processes were not followed:
1) Ghana Medical Association
2) Polytechnic Teachers’ Association of Ghana
3) National Association of Graduate Teachers
4) Aviance Ghana Limited
5) Metro Mass Transport
2.3 Investigation of Labour Complaints and Prevention of Labour Disputes
a) Labour Inspection
Part XVI of the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651) provided for Labour Inspection. The Law further required that, the Labour Inspectors should “report to the Labour Department or the Commission other unfair labour practices or abuses not specifically provided for by this Act.” In order to equip the Labour Inspectors with the requisite knowledge on labour inspection under the Act, the Commission organized a three-day training workshop for Labour Inspectors nationwide. In all, (fifty) 50 Labour Inspectors of the Labour Department participated in the workshop which was held at Marina Hotel, Dodowa from 14-16 September, 2005.
Participants were also taken through the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328).
2.4 Promotion of effective labour co-operation between Labour and Management
The Commission intends in the coming year, to design programmes and activities that would ensure the promotion of co-operation between employers and employees.
2.5 Other Activities
a) Interactions with the Social Partners
For the period under review, the Commission held an interactive meeting with the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) and also paid courtesy calls on some of the tripartite constituents, namely, the Ghana Employers Association, (GEA) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU).
The highlights of the discussions during the interactions were on:
q The need for the Commission to maintain its neutrality to ensure the success of the law.
q Expeditious settlement of industrial disputes to avoid unnecessary tensions and strikes.
q The need for the social partners to look at issues dispassionately to promote a sound industrial relations environment.
q The discouragement of government’s interference in industrial dispute settlement.
q Impartial rulings to ensure confidence it the Commission.
q The need to look into the delay in the issuance of collective bargaining certificates by the Labour Department.
q Senior Staff Unionization and the difficulties associated with it.
q Attitudinal change by both management and unions with the coming into force of the Labour Act.
q The need for mutual trust and respect for the players in the labour market to promote industrial harmony.
q On the operations of the NLC, the NTC suggested that mechanisms be developed to enable the partners’ to access relevant information from the Commission. They further proposed a special meeting between the NTC and the NLC for a detailed briefing on the Commission’s operations to enable the partners to learn of the problems and difficulties being faced by the Commission from time to time and to explore the best ways of addressing them. The NTC commended the Commission for its achievement during its first 100 days in office, wished the Commission well and pledged its support for the success of the Commission.
q A call was made to the social partners to assist the Commission to acquire its own accommodation.
c) Press Conference on the Commission’s 100 Days In Office
On the 2nd of September, 2005, the Commission held a press conference at its premises to commemorate its 100 days in office. The purpose was to inform stakeholders and the Ghanaian populace of the Commission’s activities since its establishment.
The Press Conference was witnessed by the social partners and was attended by over 40 media personnel from both the private and public print and electronic media. The address by the Chairperson was followed by interaction with the media.
The press conference highlighted the following:
q Functions and Independence of the Commission
q Activities of the Commission
q Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in the Labour Act
q Complaints/Petitions received
q Impact of the Commission’s Activities
q Transitional Provisions
q Challenges and the Future
d) Launch of NLC Website
In order to be connected electronically nationwide and worldwide, the NLC developed a website with details on the various activities of the Commission. The website was officially launched on 13th December, 2005 at the premises of the Commission. The website address is <www.nlcghana.org.>
e) Development of Information Brochures
The Commission as part of its advocacy and educational programme, developed for distribution, information brochures on key aspects of the Labour Act, especially, the Employer-Employee Relationship, the Dispute Settlement Mechanisms and the Functions of the Commission.
f) Essential Services
The health sector has among others been declared internationally as an essential service provider. Section 162 of the Act dilates on essential services and the processes involved in their dispute settlement. The section made a special provision which allowed disputes involving essential services to be settled expeditiously.
In order to ensure compliance with the provisions as stated in the law, the Commission organized a three-day sensitization workshop under the theme: "The Labour Act 2003, Act 651 and the Essential Service Worker”. The workshop was held specifically for the health professionals of the Ministry of Health at the Chances Hotel, Ho from 26-29 October, 2005. The workshop presented a forum for the health professionals to be exposed to the settlement of disputes involving the essential service worker, the rights and duties of both employers and employees and the role of the National Labour Commission in dispute settlement.
Another objective of the workshop was to seek to promote effective co-operation between the health service provider and the employer.
In all, 45 health workers in the various health professions, management staff and the Hon. Minister of Health participated in the workshop.
2.6 Lessons Learnt
a) Inadequate Knowledge of the Law
Lessons gathered so far from the various complaints and petitions received, interactions with some of the working populace and from the training programmes revealed that, most of the players in the labour market were not well-informed or not aware of the Labour Act and the requirements under the Law, especially, the dispute settlement mechanisms and the role of the National Labour Commission.
The Commission has therefore decided to organize more educational and sensitization programmes for organized groups, workers and their leaders as well as management. However, all these can be done, subject to the availability of funds.
It became clear that, unionization, registration of unions and collective bargaining were issues which needed to be critically examined, and so the Commission intends to conduct a survey in this area, and also organize sensitization programmes for the stakeholders.
The NLC will commission a research into the causes of strikes and their effects on industry and the economy as a whole, in order for the Commission to be adequately informed in designing educational programmes to address the causes.
d) Communication Strategy
A communication strategy for the Commission would be developed. The intent is to identify the best ways of disseminating information and educating the players in the labour market on the Labour Act, the Commission and its activities. A TV serialization programme on the Labour Act as part of the communication strategy is also being considered.
e) Stakeholders’ Interference in Matters before the Commission
There would be the need for the stakeholders not to circumvent the dispute settlement processes prescribed by the law when the Commission is handling matters, because this attitude undermines the law.
f) Non-Compliance with Signed Agreements
The Commission observed in many of the cases brought before it, especially those involving the public-sector employment that, agreements had been signed between government agents representing the employer and the workers’ representatives at negotiation, but then, such agreements could not be implemented. The main reason was that agents who represented government as an employer at negotiations did not seek the appropriate mandate before committing the employer to agreements which could not be implemented, mostly because of lack of funds.
a) Lukewarm Perception of the Commission by the Public
The public perception of the Commission was that of another bureaucracy which had been established to take away workers’ rights from them. This was because in cases of industrial disagreements, it was sad to note that, some responsible people in authority or for that matter knowledgeable people made very unfortunate statements like, “the Commission was not educating the workers on the Labour Law, but was rather quick to declare strikes as illegal.” Such comments were usually made on radio programmes, misinforming the public about the Commission and its work. The unfortunate part was that the panelists and contributors were persons who had little or no knowledge of Act 651 and had not taken the time to learn the requirements of the law.
Such panelists and journalists tend to combine morality with the law, thus allowing the public to sympathize with the offending group. It was believed that, in order to check this state of affairs the Commission would have to embark on a series of public education programmes both in the print and electronic media to enable the working populace and Ghanaians in general to appreciate the law and the work of the Commission.
b) Difficulty of Change
It is important that, all stakeholders and especially the social partners who were party to the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651) which was a “consensus law” ensure that they obey the law in order to make it work. The time when strikes could be embarked upon without observing due processes had passed. The law required that, before instituting any industrial action, certain processes would have to be observed. However, many players in the labour market did not observe these processes and rather went by the old ways of doing things. It was very worrying that, the same partners who were operating the law then, and saw the need for the change and therefore engaged in extensive consultations for about ten years before coming out with the new law continued to flout the provisions of the very law they agreed to.
c) Volume of Cases received in comparison with the size of the Commission
Immediately on assumption of office, the Commission was inundated with a lot of petitions/complaints. Apart from the individual petitions/complaints and those from organized bodies, most of the cases were referred from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Labour Department.
This situation made the work of the Commission very difficult because it was yet to put in place its procedures for the settlement of disputes. Additionally, the Members of the Commission are part-timers coupled with the fact that, the Commission was yet to recruit its complement of staff. This notwithstanding, the Commission established some interim measures to take care of the volume of cases.
d) Budgetary Allocation
Whilst it was very clear that, the Commission needed to step up its educational and sensitization programmes, the Commission was constrained financially. The government’s budgetary allocation to the Commission for the year under review was not enough to support the programmes that were drawn up. In fact, the Commission had to depend a lot on the Trade and Investment Programme for a Competitive Export Economy (TIPCEE) of USAID to be able to carry out most of its programmes.
It is therefore important for the Government to re-consider its budgetary allocation to the Commission to enable it to open regional and district offices as required by the law and also step up its educational programmes.
e) Office Accommodation
At the moment the Commission is being housed in rented premises at Asylum Down. The Tenancy Agreement was for a period of one year after which, it would have to be renewed. The location of the office is not ideal for the Commission’s work, and so the need for an ideal office accommodation is imperative.
The Commission has located some government bungalows around the Ridge Area and Barnes Road, and we would like to plead with the Hon. Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment to use his good offices to acquire one for us.
f) Transitional Period
In the 1992 Constitution and in the Labour Act, every worker has the right to form or join a trade union of his or her choice for the promotion of his or her economic rights. Before the coming into force of Act 651 various associations were formed by government-sector employees to promote their interest. During that time, the employer, i.e. government could negotiate with such bodies, even though they were not registered trade unions. However, Act 651 now provides that, a workers’ organization should be properly cloaked before it could enter into negotiations with the employer.
In this vein, it has become apparent that, there is the need for the tripartite social partners, i.e. government, employers and organized labour to come to an agreement as to how long, an organized group which wants to exercise the rights and powers conferred under the law, but which is not properly cloaked under the law, can continue to negotiate with its employer. It would be appropriate for the parties to agree on a time-frame within which organized bodies would need to fulfill the requirements of the law in order to enjoy the rights and privileges provided for under the law.
2.8 Conclusions, Main observations and the Way Forward
Obligation of the Social Partners
It is important for the Social Partners who committed themselves to the promulgation of a new law to lend their support in ensuring that the law succeeds. The partners would need to intensify the education of their constituents on the provisions of the law in order to ensure that, the purpose of the law is not defeated.
It is important for all the social partners to continue to see it as their duty at all times to make the law work in order not to allow a few individuals and/or groups to threaten the rule of law on the labour landscape.
On the whole, it can be said that, the Commission has received co-operation from both employers and employees. The awareness of change is also gaining ground, as many aggrieved complainants see the Commission as the preferred forum for the settlement of their industrial disagreements rather than resorting to the law courts. In that we see a justification for the establishment of the National Labour Commission.
Regional Offices for Kumasi, Takoradi and Tema must be opened in the coming year.