The Federation of Transport Unions in Ghana has drawn up a work plan to strengthen the capacity of its members to be able to impel employers and managements to adopt and implement workplace HIV/AIDS policy.
The two-day workshop was sponsored by the International Transport Federation (ITF) under the theme: “HIV/AIDS and the Transport Industry”.
Key among the workplace HIV/AIDS action plans discussed at the workshop in Accra were the creation of HIV and AIDS committees at workplaces, communication and advocacy, proper implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes to be incorporated into the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) of all transport companies.
Others were rights and responsibilities of employers, employees and their families infected with the diseases, prevention, behaviour change, discrimination, prejudice and maginalisation of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and the role of trade unions in the fight against the disease.
Nana Owusu-Boatey, Head of Occupational Health and Safety at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), delivering on “HIV/AIDS and The Workplace: An Issue for The Transport Sector”, noted that the major problem facing the country is discrimination, prejudice and stigmatization of PLWHAs.
He said the campaign on educating employers and employees had stepped up in order to facilitate continuous counseling and psycho-social support to PLWHAs.
According to him, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders had been invited to take up the challenge in order to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on sustained profitability and economy growth.
He said TUC had put in place strategic plans concerned with the delivering interventions to reduce HIV transmission through care, support for PLWHAs and information on HIV/AIDS for action.
Nana Boatey said interventions for reducing transmission included voluntary counseling, prevention of mother to child transmission and management of other health related issues.
He said over the years HIV/AIDS had gained prominence as a workplace issue and many enterprises had felt the impact of the disease through lost of staff, absenteeism, medical and recruitment costs hence the need for employers to screen their workers for pre-employment medicals.
According to him, employers in the transport industry often tried to justify their action by saying that they could not guarantee medical care or other assistance, hence the need for them to have safe sex by using condoms or abstain from it.
Madam Anna Karume, Education Coordinator from the ITF Africa Regional Office in Kenya, reminded the participants that already collective bargaining agreements in countries like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have HIV/AIDS clauses in them.
She urged the transport unions in Ghana to ensure that their CBAs documents contain provisions on HIV/AIDS that would protect workers living with the disease at their workplaces.
She said the pandemic has however had particularly devastating impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, destroying the human capital base of countries and retarding their economic and social development, hence the need to develop the skills of drafting HIV/AIDS provisions as a policy at the workplaces.
Madam Karume urged trade unions to wage a relentless war against the pandemic through advocacy and effective communication.
The Deputy General Secretary of the General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical workers Union (GTPCWU), Mr Prince Alfred Amissah urged the participants to facilitate workplace HIV/AIDS prevention in order to ensure that the Ghanaian workforce stays healthy.