Prioritize Welfare of Mineworkers

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has been engaging the leadership of Ghana Mineworkers’ Union (GMWU), to deepen the relationship between the two stakeholders on ways to prioritize the needs and concerns of the members, in the downstream sector.

The meeting, which was held yesterday in Accra, comes at a time government is asking the various mining companies to develop and deepen local content policies to benefit the workers and indigenes at large.

A Deputy Minister in-charge of Mines, George MirekuDuker, who chaired the visit said, the meeting is aimed at deepening the collaboration with the Union, to ensure that, going forward, the interest of workers and locals are addressed properly.

MrMirekuDuker said government is against the phenomenon where these firms and concessioners benefit, so much, from these concessions at the expense of the people who own the resources.

The Deputy Minister, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tarkwa-Nsuaem constituency in the Western Region, said these mining firms have been advised to marry the gains they make with the wellbeing of workers.

“The main purpose of this meeting is to collaborate well with the Mineworkers Union as we are asking the various mining firms to deepen their local content policy that they have been rolling [out].

Government has been on them to roll out local content policy to benefit indigenes of this country.

As we all know, we would not want situation where the mine or the conventioneers will get their life of mine relaxed, get away leaving the hardworking Ghanaians poor.

That is what we want to frown on. As they get enriched, as they make profits, they must do so collaboratively.

They must link whatever gains they make with the entire workforce and that is what, as a ministry, we are seeking to see from the various mining companies in Ghana”, he said.

He said the quest to have local content properly implemented is not only to cater for the welfare of the workers only, but as a Ministry, they are expecting that these companies deliberately ensure that very important aspects of the mining arrangements are allocated to Ghanaians in general.

“If we talk of local content, yes we are not talking of only the welfare of the workers, we are also talking of giving part of the concessions to Ghanaians in terms of outsourcing some of their production activities, outsourcing some of their technological advancement, outsourcing some of their supplying initiatives and all that and also the wellbeing of these workers”.

MrMirekuDuker also spoke about earlier concerns expressed by the Union members regarding the differences in remuneration compared to Ghanaian mineworkers and their foreign counterparts.

“Quite recently, we have received some complaints from the Mineworkers Union indicating how hard pressed some of the workers are in terms of variance in remuneration comparing to that of expats and the locals. They think the difference is too wide”, the Deputy Minister said.

He implored the mining firms to ensure that when there is “windfall”, the workers also “feel” the benefit because according to him it is out of their hard work that “you get to that realm and when you get there don’t forget them.

Workers must be motivated enough and doing so, we know the repeal effect on other people and positively it impact on this economy. This economy is hinged mostly on the activities of mining and we must all come together as a country to ensure that we work to sustain it”.

He said government appreciates the concerns of the workers and will continue to engage the Chamber of Mines and other stakeholders so that these issues are addressed. Adding government is committed and that unlike in the past, it will ensure that mining contracts signed going forward benefits Ghanaians largely.

The Deputy Minister said government is thankful that despite the barrage of unresolved issues concerning the sector, one being security, the workers have not taken the law into their own hands to cause unrest.

Chairman of the Mineworkers Union, Kwaku Mensah Jakari, on his part expressed grave concern about the casualization of workers which he is said is affecting their members greatly.

According to him “Almost all the big mining companies are on fix term contracts.

Meaning that you work on a fix time contract basis and most of them work for two years and after the two years, the contract is renewed whether it will be renewed or not depends on your employer.

As we speak to you now most of the mining companies including Newmont lately have decided that they are also on fixed term contract”.

According to him when they enquired from the company, Newmont informed them that, the laws of Ghana are not against that.

He also touched on the insecurity in these mining concessions where these illegal miners have invaded and threatening the lives of legal miners and taking over properly acquired concessions.

While welcoming the request for local content, MrJakari said that move must be a “little circumspect” because it is breeding some undesired results including strikes.

He said some so called opinion leaders chiefs, assembly members and have made themselves recruitment agents where they take people’s money. I think we should look at that critically because lately it was Babiani where the community revolted against the companies working at Babiani and I think it is a serious issue that we should look at.

Because if we don’t assess those issues critically I am telling you a time will come it will create problem for the industry”.

General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union, Abdul MuniruGbana, who spoke at length touched various issues concerning local content, security, activities of Operation Halt II, casualization and a number of other important issues.

While reacting to the call for local content MrGbana was particularly concerned about the fact that a whopping 90 percent of Ghana’s mining sector, is largely driven by foreign interests or controlled by multinationals.

He said Ghanaians cannot continue to stay layback and look on while the best part of the sector is controlled by non-Ghanaians and wait for some tax and royalty giveaways.

He said “there is an urgent need for us to create value, we ensure that we retain that value for the greater good of this country and its citizens. And to do that obviously requires capacity building and that capacity cannot be built without special purpose vehicles.

It is important we take a commanding height of the mining industry”. On security, Mr. Gbana called on government intervene by assisting the companies with Military and the Police.

He demanded that government addresses their concerns with the urgency needed.

He said they have already informed the Ministry and the National Security and wish that the Military and Police will be deployed to these legal concessions so that workers feel protected.

Source: Anchorghana

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