The existence of a strong and recognised trade union is a prerequisite to industrial peace. Decisions taken through the process of collective bargaining and negotiations between employer and unions are more influential.
The trade union plays an important role and helpful in effective communication between the workers, management and government. The central or core function of a trade union is to represent people at work. But they also have a wider role in protecting their interests. It provides legal support to workers when they face serious legal tangles, protect workers against physical and mental torture and exploitation of superiors at workplace.
In the United States for instance, every labor union operates under what is known as the collective bargaining agreement, which helps secure fair wages, working hours, benefits and the standards necessary for wage increase. The unions help workers to secure guaranteed pensions than are non unionized workers. In the United States for instance, trade unions have been an important part of the American Labour movement since 1794.
Labour Party organization may be dated from 1900 when a Labour representation committee was formed. It was originally based on trade unionism and socialist societies and made no claim to represent the people in general. In Ghana under Dr Nkrumah the special relations that existed between the Cpp administration and the unions stabilised the industrial relations landscape. The leadership of the trade unions and workers in general gave the Cpp administration the support it needed.
In Britain there has been several attempts to depoliticise the union movement as it is to de fund the Labour Party. There is a political fund which is a pot of money unions have to campaign on all political activities, not simply to fund the Labour Party. Every ten years, by law, union workers vote on whether to keep the political fund (the trade union Act of 1984- Thatcher’s last attempt to defenestrate the unions. All these show and confirm the importance of the unions in our politics past and contemporary.
In Ghana, the NLC regime designed repressive policies to destroy the Unions. The regimes man hunt and intimidation led to drastic reduction in the membership of the Unions and their influence. Nkrumah recognized and acknowledged the importance of the working people and made the workers movement an integral part of his anti colonial movement. Many of the top leaders of the trade union movement of the 50s and 60s were comrades in arms of Kwame Nkrumah and the Cpp as a result of that cordial relations. Pobey Biney, Anthony Wood, Tachie Menson, Ocran, John Tettegah were all part of the high council of the Cpp. The TUC building and the Labour were bequeathed to the union by the Cpp government in 1960. The NLC regime destroyed documents of the TUC and treated its leadership as enemies than partners in national development. Under the 1969 constitution, the appointment of all officers in the public service numbering over 2000, was terminated on February 21, 1970, six months after the coming into force of the constitution. Employees of the Bank of Ghana, the Ministry of Trade, the Ghana Commercial Bank and the Ghana National Trading Corporation (GNTC) were affected. The implementation of this obnoxious law led to the dismissal of Mr Sallah and the disgrace it brought upon the government of Prime Minister Busia. Mr Sallah who did not think that there was a legal basis for his termination, contracted the services of Quarshie Idun and company to represent him. Days after the writ was issued, Prime Minister Busia granted an interview to the daily graphic and made many contemptuous comments. The Attorney General was of the view that two of the judges Apaloo and Sowah were not going to be impartial arbiters because to him, they had some form of personal interest in the matter. Busia did all he could to undermine operations and activities of the TUC and its stalwarts. Busia repealed the Compulsory TUC membership law which led to the TUC losing over 400,000 members. When the TUC reminded Busia of his salary increase promise, he created a Salary Review Commission but did not implement the commission’s proposals. In the aftermath of the Sallah case, the Attorney General, Mr Adade, told the Ghanaian Times that the judgement was valueless since the court constituted by a panel of four instead of five as stipulated in the constitution. The Acting Chief Justice in response to the AG’s claim said Justice Siriboe had not been excused from the panel. He stressed that the panel was properly constituted. Sallah and his lawyer, Mr Reindoff win the case but relationship between the executive and the judiciary was deeply bruised.
I have put out these historical facts to remind the current TUC leadership especially, Dr Yaw Baah of their core responsibilities. I have been following my brothers (Dr Baah)’s activities since he took over from comrade Kofi Asamoah and must say I am a bit disappointed. I was on the same committee with Dr Baah, Comrade Asamiah, Prof. Addae Mensah and Prof Adei at the Senchi Forum and must say the young man was phenomenal, his command over national issues was just impressive. The young man seems neutralized and the TUC appear empty and weakened. We need to start demanding proper explanations from the leadership of the unions – why they have suddenly become grovellers, praise singers and spokes persons of government. When trade unions are weakened, the right of all working people become compromised. That is the situation the Ghanaian worker finds himself under the current leadership of the Unions. Trade unions are important to the workers for the following reasons – They are the workers tool for collective bargaining, strengthen workers demand for better Labour and industrial legislation, ensure more job security for its members, provide legal support to workers when they face legal tangles, ensure safer working environment for workers, ensure that workers rights and liberties are better protected. These are the core duties and responsibilities of Dr Yaw Baah and the Unions leadership. We are yet to hear the position of Dr Yaw Baah and his TUC on the wanton collapsing of businesses as a result of the administration’s outmoded economic policies, dismissal and victimisation of workers because of their perceived political inclination. Another union benefit is that union workers are much more likely to secure guaranteed pensions. I am happy the theme for this year’s May Day celebration touched on this critical issue. By ensuring fair wages and benefits, Labour unions help keep the membership content, and workers who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to work hard. It is the responsibility of the TUC leadership to ensure the actualization of these core targets. The current leadership of the TUC under my respected comrade Dr Baah appear weakened and compromised. In spite of all the support Nkrumah and the Cpp gave the TUC, the TUC challenged policies of the Cpp it deemed obnoxious, backward or bogus.
My friend and his colleagues should not pretentiously forget the impact of the 24th February Coup on Trade Unionism in Ghana. By the time the NLC handed over power in 1970 over 60,000 direct public sector jobs had been cut and registered unemployment figure had jumped to 600,000. The then TUC leadership did not play the ostrich as we witnessing currently, they challenged Busia and his administration and made life uncomfortable for the regime. I don’t want to say the current leadership of the TUC is in bed with the Akufo Addo government but recent events and comments by some of its executives create that impression and support what critics of the current TUC leadership say.