Throughout centuries, labor has been a necessary adjunct in all economic activity. Labor law establishes relationship between the government and employers or trade unions. While labor has been the pivot to our civilization, labor laws became necessary when the effort to regulate the excesses of employers and to harmonize work related issues as well as enhance productivity became a matter of course. Even then, it was the post-industrial revolution that trade and labor unions would gain foothold. The actions of these group would catalyze labor laws formation.
At the time, the industrial revolution coagulated labor into factories; facilitating the advancement of workers interest in fashion that was yet to manifest. In the period that predated the industrial revolution however, much of labor folks operated in cottage industries that was made up of familial relational workers, and so made the facilitation of organized labor impossible.
In the postindustrial revolution days, however, the strength of a union could cause the withdrawal of labor and subsequent halting of production in factories. So that, employers had to give in to labor demands at a cost, or bear the brunt of production cessation. Thus; issues of labor, labor laws and the modification of labor laws to suite the changing time has been in full force since the industrial revolution. Meanwhile, Ghana’s labor laws took shape only decades ago, and has undergone modifications to reflect changing times. It has also safeguarded the rights and freedoms of workers, while upholding the desires and aspirations of the country.
Even then, the current Ghanaian labor laws are brutally unfavorable to its commons. And not only has it been unpleasant to the plebs, but from the signal this far, it would require urgent revision to undo the years of damage.
In Ghana, before the promulgation of labor law, Act 651, in 2003; Ghana’ labor law had precipitated by prior enactment of the Industrial Relations Act 1960, (Act 299) which governed labor relations. Under the repealed Act 299, the Labor Department under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare was in charge of managing and settling Industrial Relations disputes in Ghana.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s labor law was improved much further in the second republican constitution; In there, article 16 of chapter three (3) dealt particularly with slavery and forced labor. It was in the third republic, according to Hodge et al 2006, that minimum wages were given priority; In 1972, the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) was formed by the National Redemption Committee (NRC) with the mandate to fix the national minimum wage issues. Consequently, their work would be bolstered much further by Hilla Liman’s People’s National Party (PNP) under the third republic.
The National Labor Commission (NLC) functions included the settlement of industrial disputes, investigation of unfair labor practices, and the promotion of cooperation between workers and management. It would be the period of fourth republic that the constitution dealt somewhat comprehensively on labor laws. Even then, aspects of that labor law suffered serious setbacks and remain quite unfavorable partly due to its sectional scope and also, due to its non-deterrence.
For a start, the labor Act, 2003, covered all employers and employee except those in the security services, like the Armed Forces, the Police, the Prison Service and the Security Intelligence or agencies specified under the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1996 (Act 526). Also, many labor law breaches are either sometimes ignored by the labor commission or minimally enforced, resulting in the continuous exploitation of ordinary Ghanaian, largely by expatriate.
But first, why the exclusion of security services?
Conceivably, whereas it presented and continue to offer favorable legal regime for the management, regulation and control of government’s security forces; many a view is held against same. That the prevailing labor laws exclude such group as the security services makes it grossly sectional and unfavorable. In the main, labor laws in Ghana are unfavorable to people that do not fall under its ambit. It is not uncommon to have professional teachers and nurses demonstrate against policies and for their labor rights. However, people within the security services are barred from exercising such privilege, although in some cases, special avenues exist for the smothering of labor issues within the security architecture.
Also, people that are unaware of or lack knowledge about the existing labor law are equally disfavored. As a results, they do not benefit from or are exploited by corporations and some employers. The rights of a worker as provided for by the labor act include that: All workers will have the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions. They will have the right to receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind. The right to have rest, leisure and reasonable limitation or working hours and period of holidays with pay as well as remuneration for public holidays has been guaranteed under the labor laws. But many people are not only unaware of these provisions, also, they are usually not given work contract documents that specifies the job given them, which in itself flouts the labor law provision.
Written statement of particulars of contract of employment must be provided subject to the terms and conditions of a contract of employment between an employer and a worker; the employer is bound to adhere to the law that requires furnishing the worker with written statement of the particulars of the main terms of the contract of employment at least two months after the commencement of the employment. This is usually ignored. With the absence of such work contract documents, the very large Ghanaian working group are unable to know the remit of their jobs and or contest any inconsistencies that arise along the line.
Example, in the case of the termination of work contract of less than three years, two weeks’ notice or two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice; or in the case of contract from week to week, seven days’ notice must be given to the worker. Also, a contract of employment determinable at will by either party may be terminated at the close of any day without notice. When a contract of employment is terminated in the manner stated above, the employer shall pay to the worker any remuneration earned by the worker before the termination.
The employer shall pay to the worker not later than the date of expiration of the notice. Where no notice is required the payment of all remuneration due shall be made not later than the next working day after the termination. While these remain simple at read, many commoners are unable to know and therefore suffer grossly form the exploitation of many foreign corporations and their local associates. The abuse of workers by employers particularly expatriate have been surging. And a signal to how Ghana’s labor laws remain unfavorable to local people have been highlighted multiply, with the increasing cases of employee abuse that have not been dealt with thoroughly and transparently. In 2017, a 26 year old supervisor of fast food Company that operated in Accra was reported to have brutally assaulted a female worker. He was reported to have angrily grabbed the neck of the female worker and dipped her face into raw pepper. It triggered swift, spontaneous and widespread condemnation that resulted in the arrest of the abuser. Nonetheless, many other victims remain tight-lipped on similar happenings and on how the labor laws are unfavorable to local people. It is noteworthy that the perpetrator was of Lebanese decent—an expatriate.
In addition, the working conditions of various work facility do not meet required standard. They are either unsanitary or noisy and in some cases, with the absolute absence of lavatories. Many workers receive unequal pay for the same work but this disparity is not uncommon amongst top level management too; the phenomenon is rife. For instance, many organizations and or corporations pay less for local people that do the same job while they pay the non-local counterpart more. In a conversation with a man that works in a foreign firm in Ghana; he narrated to me how he receives less salary as a local manager with slightly better qualification than the previous non-local manager.
He added that, at a point in time, a faulty production equipment that could only be fixed by transporting an expert from Europe and which expert is paid for the work before coming, got broke down. He volunteered to fix it when they had plans to invite a specialist, but after succeeding to fix it thoroughly, he was not compensated for in any way. While the local manager did the fixing voluntarily, an assessment of the impact of the equipment shutdown would have made it prudent to compensate the local manager, at least for his effort; that was not done. Clearly, labor laws would need to be enforced roundly, to make it more favorable to local people.
Lastly, some companies have employ a vile tactic of engaging workers on temporal basis, and cyclically, as against giving them full/ permanent employment that includes their payment of SSNIT and other.
The law permits the engagement of temporal workers for a period, usually one year. So that any continuous engagement after the one year would require the formalization and or regularization of such employee. In Ghana however, many business entities skillfully evade this provision. They do so by first, ending/ discontinuing any such temporal worker few weeks to their attaining one year; which qualifies them for any available nicety as employment regularization.
After employers do away with these employee type, they begin the process of opening up new employment space to accept fresh temporal workers. Usually, it is the very people that finished the past round of temporary working that reapply. Effectively, you could have the same group of people work for the same company for years and more, under the rubric; temporal workers. Meanwhile, these organizations / employers could actually employ these temporary workers as permanent stuff. But in order to escape the huge employment cost associated with permanent workers, they choose to exploit this very aspect of the law.
From all indication, while the labor law has seen multiple layered amendment within the past decades, there is no denying that fact that the labor law in its current form makes for serious concern. And not only has it been sectional and latent, but it’s been thoroughly defective, providing avenues for the exploitation of the local person. Going forward, the Ghanaian labor law would require urgent amendment to reflect equity and to make the Ghanaian labor force, especially the local person more inclusive and favorable.
Hodges, J.,& Baah, A. (2006). National Labour Law: Ghana. International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/ifpdial/information-resources/national-labour-law-profile/WCMS_158898/lang-en/index.htc