The General Council of the Trades Union Congress (Ghana) held its last meeting of 2019 at the Public Utility Workers’ Union Centre at Kasoa on the 18th and 19th December, 2019.
The Council discussed important national and labour issues including issues relating to the management of the economy, pension, Revamping Ghana Railways Company Limited, Public Contracts, and the impending general elections in December, 2020.
This statement summarises the conclusions on the key issues discussed at the two-day meeting.
Council urged government to prioritise job creation and livelihood empowerment and called for review of Ghana trade policy which seems to disadvantage Ghanaians in favour of foreigners, reduce the ost of doing business in Ghana, and provide support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Council debated the introduction of GH¢100 and GH¢200 banknotes and their likely impacts on the economy. Some members of the Council expressed fear that the higher notes could be inflationary. The Council discussed Bank of Ghana’s explanation that the introduction of the higher denominations was intended to ensure convenience in business transactions, lower transaction and printing costs and reduce “deadweight burden” involved in business transactions within the context of a growing economy. The Council urged the TUC to continue to monitor the impact of the new denominations particularly their impacts on cost of living.
One major issue that received attention of General Council has to do with second-tier pensions. Members expressed worry about workers who are due to retire from January 2020 and who will have to rely on their second-tier contributions as lump-sum. The fear emanates from three sources. First, the second-tier contributions have not been invested for a long period as envisaged. This implies that the second-tier pension funds might not have generated enough returns. Second, there are many unresolved issues relating to pension contribution data which will form the basis for the computation of the lump sum. And, third, some key issues about the computation of past credit which will be paid by SSNIT remain unresolved.
Given these challenges, members feared that retirees who will depend largely on their second-tier schemes for lumpsum benefits may be worse-off compared to their counterparts who were paid fully by Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
After a very intensive discussion, the Council affirmed the earlier call by the TUC for a stakeholder forum on the second-tier to discuss and agree on the way forward. The Council also reiterated TUC’s position that no pensioner should be made worse-off as a result of the pension reforms because the main objective of the reforms was to enhance retirement income and not to worsen it.
REVAMPING GHANA RAILWAYS COMPANY LIMITED
The Council noted with satisfaction the efforts being made by Government to revamp the railway sector including pre-financing the contract for the construction of railway lines from Kojokrom to Eshiem. The Council called for timely completion of the processes especially for the award of contract from Kojokrom to Awaso so that other commodities such as bauxite and cocoa could be hauled as a means of sustaining Ghana Railway Company Limited.
GHANA PORTS AND HARBOURS AUTHORITY/ MERIDIAN PORT SERVICES AGREEMENT
Council noted with great satisfaction the agreement between Meridian Port Services (MPS) and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to allow GPHA to handle 20 percent of container cargo at the Tema Port. This will have very positive effects on jobs and minimize labour unrest in the maritime industry.
Council urged government to ensure that all public contracts are properly reviewed to reduce the venality and corruption that have characterised public contracts in Ghana and to ensure that we derive maximum benefits from our resources.
Council discussed the impending general elections and appealed to all stakeholders to cooperate to ensure peaceful general elections in December, 2020.
On behalf of the General Council of the TUC, we wish all working people of Ghana a Very Happy New Year! May the Good Lord bless our efforts towards building a strong nation!
DR. YAW BAAH
ACCRA, 13TH JANUARY, 2020