The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) has described the unilateral approach adopted by Gold Fields Ghana to sack over 2,150 workers as “wrong and unacceptable.”
The union said such a unilateral decision was heartless and a stab in the back of the workers’ union of the company, that made a lot of sacrifices to sustain it when the price of gold on the world market dipped.
“This is not the first time we are dealing with redundancy issues; we have done it in a very civilised manner in the past and we question: why this approach now?” the TUC queried.
Why the turn around?
Addressing journalists after a close-door meeting of the executives of the TUC in Accra on Thursday, the Secretary-General of the union, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, said: “The TUC is solidly behind the Gold Fields workers’ union and we are going to do whatever it takes to protect members’ interest.”
“Why would we encourage foreign companies to come to our land, exploit our resources and be so heartless to Ghanaian workers? Why would we sit down for them to come and sign contracts and one year after, when we are sure they will create jobs and invest more money, they rather sack these workers?” Dr Baah asked.
He was joined by other executive members of the TUC, including the Chairman of the union, Rev. Richard Kwasi Yeboah; the General Secretary of the Ghana Mines Workers Union (GMWU), Prince William Ankrah, and a member of the GMWU, Ms Philomena Aba Sampson.
Reneging on promise
Dr Baah said Gold Fields Ghana signed a development agreement with the Government of Ghana in March 2016.
Per the agreement, he said, the company promised to invest huge resources in the Tarkwa and Damang mines to create jobs for the people.
“Somehow, what we are seeing at Gold Fields is the opposite and we think the company wants to take Ghanaians for granted. After they had received concessions, they now turn to sack the workers. The justification they are giving that they are transferring these workers from Gold Fields to contract mining is simply wrong, because the conditions are not the same,” he said.
Dr Baah appealed to the members of the union to exercise restraint between now and January 10, next year when sitting would be resumed on the case and said: “Whatever happens, we have to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Gold Fields and we are hoping the company will see reason to come and talk to us.”
The TUC Secretary-General said issues of redundancy had occurred before in the past, when the price of gold fell below $300.
The situation, according to him, caused the union and management of the company to meet to address the difficulties associated with the low gold price.
“We agreed to slash our leave allowance and that made it possible for the company, then known as Ashanti GoldFields, to stay and we also kept our jobs, with some taking redundancy, and this is what we expect Gold Fields to do.
Dr Baah said the union would take up the matter with the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to reach an amicable solution.
For his part, Mr Ankrah said the focus of the GMWU was to contest the business model of the Gold Fields Company, since it was skewed to favour a handful of corporate executives who wanted to exploit vulnerable Ghanaian workers.
He explained that a research conducted and published by the union in 2015 showed that “47.2 per cent of the total wage bill of Gold Fields went to a handful of expatriates and management staff and the remaining 52.8 per cent goes to the workers.
“The Tarkwa mines business model of the company is exploitative, as it seeks to inform the pay cheques of the few management members of the company,” he added.