Within the period, 28,433 jobs were created, Mrs Kate Abbeo, Solicitor for the Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), announced at a seminar for employers in the enclaves held in Accra on Thursday.
The seminar organised by the National Labour Commission (NLC) was to educate participants on the provisions of the Labour Act 2003 which regulates employment relations and protect workers’ rights.
These are freedom of association and collective bargaining, equal pay for equal work, maternity protection, occupational health and safety as well as the right to strike.
Free Zones are designated areas where goods and services are produced for export as operators are given tax incentives and other benefits, as well as exemption from paying corporate income tax.
Mrs. Abbeo said the rationale for the establishment of such zones was to attract direct foreign investment, technology transfer, diversification of exports and job creation with the total rights of workers.
She said there was therefore, the need for employers to respect the rights of employees by allowing them to join trade unions in accordance with due process while employees should also honour the terms and conditions of their contract of engagement.
Mrs. Abbeo said union executives should as well respect the provisions in the Free Zones Act which permitted free zones developers and companies to internally negotiate and establish contracts of employment with employees on working hours and wages scale.
She reminded employers, both expatriates and locals that they were expected to spend one per cent of their annual wage bill in training Ghanaian workers to make technology transfer programmes meaningful, adding, “The employer is under obligation to furnish the GFZB with training programmes and records every six months from commencement of work”.
Mrs. Abbeo said employees working within the zones were also entitled to be paid salaries or wages not less than the minimum wage prevailing in the country at a given time, social security, provision of the pension law and law on workmen’s compensation and public holidays.
She said the Board would always ensure that free zone enterprises complied with the provisions on industrial relations contained in the Free Zones Act and uphold human values that were vital to the social and economic lives of employees.
Mr. Johnson Adasi, Director in-charge of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and Industry, Ministry of Trade and Industry, who represented the Sector Minister, Ms. Hannah Tetteh, said an industrial policy had been established to drive industries in the country, most of which were in distress.
He said the policy which had four components including production and distribution, technology and incentives was designed to increase competitiveness and ease the transaction of business in Ghana to help promote fair pricing and trade on the international market.
Mr. Edward Briku-Boadi, Executive-Secretary, NLC, said the Commission had often received complaints that workers within the enclaves were not being allowed by their employers to form or join trade unions to negotiate for their rights because some of the employers thought such workers were not bounded by the labour laws in the country.
He said all such workers were bounded by the labour laws and should be given such rights.