12 unions call off strike *but threatents to resume action after 7 days if...(November 5, 2014) Front

Member unions of the Forum for Public Sector Registered Pension Schemes who are agitating over issues concerning their tier-two pension funds have called off their strike.

The forum,however,indicated the preparedness of workers to lay down their tools by next Tuesday if the dispute was not resolved.

The decision to call off the strike is in response to an injunction granted by the Industrial and Labour Division of the Accra High Court  restraining the nine unions from continuing with their indefinite strike.

The workers also accused the government of trying to divide the public sector workers front since the court action and the subsequent serving of writs was done selectively. 

The General Secretay of the forum, Mr Reynold Tenkorang, maintained that the government showed bad faith in going to “court to obtain an exparte order on the forum which was in the public domain and generating media speculations and malicious press statements but was not served on the unions/association until about 5p.m. last Monday.”

Court order
The court last Friday directed the leadership of the unions to ensure an immediate end to the indefinite strike and return to work with their respective members.

The affected unions are the Health Services Workers Union (HSWU), the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA), the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) and the Ghana Pharmacists Association (GPA).

The others are the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anaesthetists (GACRA), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT).

Mr Tenkorang accused the government of dragging its feet, adding that although the unions had submitted proposals agreed between the two parties to the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, the government had failed to submit its proposal on the matter. 

He observed that although the government went to court to use the existing legal regime to advance its course, it was not all existing legal regimes that were good to be resorted to at certain points in time.


Case for strike

Making a case for the strike, he said many Ghanaians were aware of the debilitating conditions that pensioners found themselves after having diligently served the nation for many years.

“We all know the extent of control the government of Ghana wields over the  Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and how the government has contributed, over the years, to the inefficiencies and mismanagement of SSNIT through political interference.

“It is because of these scary conditions at retirement that pushed workers to agitate for pension reforms and which were wholeheartedly embraced by the government of the day. To the architects of the three-tier pension scheme, it was crafted to insulate excessive governmental interference and to engender peer competitions among the existing schemes so as to promote efficiency,” he said. 

Hospitals attending to emergencies

At a press conference last  Monday, the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, indicated that the strike had denied Ghanaians, including pregnant women, vital public services on account of the current strike.

But Mr Tenkorang discredited the claim and stated that members of the forum in the health sector had acted inconsistence with a press release of October 22, 2014 in which they stated that the full range of their services shall be available for emergencies, pregnant women, children and in-patients.

The minister also described the strike as unconscionable and unmeritorious.
But the union leader  warded off the statement, stating that “since 2010, the forum has given signals and early warnings to the government but the government has paid no heed to such signals.”
Appointment of Pension Alliance Trust

Mr Tenkorang described as complete falsehood claims by the Minister of  Communications  that workers had a hand in the  appointment of Alliance Trust to manage the tier-two scheme of public sector workers.

“We want to emphasise that legally, workers are always represented by their accredited unions or in their own persons but certainly not their managers. Article 21 of the Constitution of Ghana guarantees the right of workers to form or join trade unions to represent their interest at work places.”

The issues 
About 12 labour unions  on October 22, 2014 embarked on an  indefinite strike in protest against the government's decision not to allow them to manage their tier-two pension funds.

Under the new pension law, the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) gets 13.5 per cent of contributors contributions, while five per cent goes to the second-tier operators to be managed by corporate trustees on behalf of contributors — employees of public and private institutions.

Although the law was passed in 2008, it took effect in 2010, within which it mandated employers to deduct five per cent of their employees' monthly salaries and pay them into a Temporary Pensions Fund Account (TPFA) at the Bank of Ghana (BoG). 

The account was to absorb the contributions in the meantime, while the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), which is the regulator of the pension industry, put up the right regulatory framework, licensed the trustees and registered them for actual work to start.

The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, explained recently that the government could not entrust the management of the pension scheme into the hands of the workers’ unions.

The Attorney-General, on October 24, 2014, sued the workers on behalf of the government, asking the Accra High Court to declare the indefinite strike illegal.

Writer’s email: seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh
The Attorney-General, on October 24, 2014, sued the workers on behalf of the government, asking the Accra High Court to declare the indefinite strike illegal.
Writer’s email: seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh

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