Public Sector Workers To Strike On Dec 27
Organized Labour has set in motion the next phase of its call to government to stay off its pension funds, in the wake of the debt restructuring programme announced barely two weeks ago by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.
The workers have threatened a total shutdown from Tuesday, 27th December, if government does not rescind its decision to include pension funds in the programme.
At a presser yesterday, December 19, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah, said they will stay at home until government yields to their demand.
“We are asking government to exempt us from the debt exchange programme. We have already told the world that if government doesn’t do that, we will advise ourselves. Today, we are here to announce the advice.
“The advice is very simple. We have all agreed that because the government has refused to grant our request, we have decided firmly that all workers of Ghana are going to strike on December 27, 2022, and we will be on strike until our demands are met,” he said.
According to Dr. Baah, the strike, which will be activated amidst the Christmas festivities, will be in force until the government exempts pension funds from the planned debt exchange programme.
Present at the briefing were (UTAG), the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU).
In an interview with Joy FM’s News Night programme yesterday, December 19, the president of the GMA, Dr. Frank Serebour, said the association is all set to join the strike, despite they being essential service providers.
According to him, provision would be made so as not lose lives needlessly at the various health facilities across the country, while they stay at home.
Dr. Serebour advised, saying if the government is serious about its debt restructuring programme, it should do the needful by reducing the size of government, stop it “free” “free” programmes and also do away with the budget for the controversial National Cathedral.
On his part, the president of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Angel Carbonu, called on all workers, both in the private and public sectors with pension funds, to join in the strike to send the right signal to government.
Earlier, several labour unions, including the Trades Union Congress, had rejected the imposition of cuts on pension funds as part of the debt exchange programme aimed at supporting the country’s economic recovery.
They included the Ghana National Association of Teachers, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Ghana Chamber of Commerce, (GCC) Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
They had decried government refusal to consult and engage the affected unions and groups before embarking on the programme.
They had said the measure will negatively affect their members and so asked government to stay off it funds or they will advise themselves.
“We have analyzed the debt exchange programme and after a thorough analysis of the programme and a very extensive discussion among the leadership of TUC and affiliates, our conclusion is very firm. And it is that the programme will negatively affect the pension funds of our members and consequently their retirement income security,” he said.
“Already, pension is low and we would have thought that our government will do everything to protect the small pension we have. Instead, they are introducing programme inspired by the International Monetary Fund to cut further pension income. Therefore, the Trades Union Congress and all its affiliates have decided that the pension funds of our members will not be part of the domestic debt exchange programme,” he added.
Dr. Yaw Baah stated that the union has written to the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, requesting that all their pension funds invested in government bonds be removed from the domestic exchange programme.
“We are also demanding in that letter that within one week from today, the government should publicly announce that all pension funds, including SSNIT are exempted from the debt exchange programme. Again, in the letter, we have served notice that if government fails to accede to our demands within one week, we will advise ourselves,” Dr. Baah said.
Recall that on December 5, 2022, government announced a debt restructuring measure, which became very unpopular among labour unions.
According to Ken Ofori-Atta, the objective is “to invite holders of domestic debt to voluntarily exchange approximately GH¢137billion of the domestic notes and bonds of the Republic, including E.S.L.A. and Daakye bonds, for a package of New Bonds to be issued by the Republic.”
Bondholders, like pension funds, banks and insurance firms will have to exchange their bonds for one that will earn zero interest next year.
The new bonds will only begin to earn five per cent interest in 2024 and 10 per cent for the remainder of their tenure.
The maturity dates have also been extended with the first bonds only maturing in 2027. Meanwhile, government is yet to respond to the threat to strike.