Ghanaian workers unhappy with 3% gain in base rate

CedisA cross section of public sector workers have criticized the 13 per cent increase base pay for public sector workers, saying in real terms they would see their salaries up by only three per cent.

This is because 10 per cent of the annual increment was already being enjoyed as the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) granted by the government in 2014.

“This is a raw deal for the public sector worker, I’m really sad,” said Madam Dorcas Asare, one of the workers told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in reaction to the government’s announcement on Tuesday.

She said, “The cost of living is so high that I don’t know what a three per cent gain would do for me. In fact, since we were given the 10 per cent COLA in 2014, utility tariffs, fuel prices and even waste collection fees have all gone up multiple times, thus keeping us in perpetual debts.”

Another worker, Madam Ruby Abbey said she was very disappointed because she expected a raise that could cushion her from her financial woes.

“I was very disturbed in 2014 when the government offered only COLA and the labour front accepted it quietly, but this year it’s even worse since I’ve reached the peak of my salary range and I won’t receive any incremental jump again”.

Mr Felix Quaye said with the prevailing economic hardship, he expected the TUC to ask for an additional 13 per cent after formalizing the 10 per cent COLA as part of the salary.

He stated: “How do I pay my child’s school fees of almost GH GH¢1,000 per term and take care of my family since I don’t earn any allowance in addition to my salary?   In fact, this offer only demonstrates the work of a social democratic government, which is insensitive to the plight of its worker and a TUC, which has failed its members.”

But Mr Kofi Asamoah, Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) explained to the GNA in an interview that orgasnised labour brokered a deal which served the best interest of both workers and the national economy.

He said it was obvious in 2014 that the national economy was not in good shape as the government could not meet its statutory obligations to release funds to subvented organisations to operate and Labour could not overlook ‘the ability to pay clause in its negotiations’.

“We know that the level of adjustment is not what is required for a worker to have a meaningful financial security and a secured pension, but we could not push government to give us our pound of flesh at all cost given the challenges that the economy faces now, the high wage bill and the improper management of the salary structure with phenomenal ghost names,” he said.

Mr Asamoah emphasised that organised labour was fully aware that “for 2014 and 2015 workers had to make a lot of sacrifices, but it had to compromise in view of certain recommendations that there should even be a wage freeze in order not to over burden the national economy.”

He said the Union was fully aware of the potential threat of public sector job cuts in the wake of the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Therefore, Mr Asamoah added, one of the conditions it made before accepting the level of increment was the guarantee that there would be no mass layoffs in an effort to reduce the wage bill, which is now pegged at close to 60 per cent of the total national budget.

“The government has said many times that its wage bill is too high and intends to bring it down to 35 per cent maximum recommended by experts as conducive for prudent economic management,” he said.

“But we are so mindful of the hardships and the untold suffering that the retrenched workers endured during the mass layoffs in the 1980s and we don’t want a repetition of that so we agreed to accept what can keep the labour force intact.”

The unemployment situation was already bad, he said, so compounding the situation would lead to a socio-economic crisis that would engender crime and other vices.

Additionally, the TUC boss said, Labour’s conditions to government to pay the Category Two and Three Allowances of Single Spine Structure and the annual incremental jumps that had been frozen since the implementation of the wage scheme in 2010 should sum up to give the public sector worker a little relief.

He said Labour expected the government to manage the economy in a more prudent manner to prosper the economy so that what had been granted would not be whittled away by high inflation, uncontrollable depreciation of the cedi and high utility tariffs.

Labour, he said, would decide on the actions to take should the economy take a nose-dive because of government’s lapses.

Mr Asamoah, therefore, urged workers to make do with the package and put their shoulders to the wheel to make the economy thrive for labour to enjoy its fruits.

The Public Services Joint Standing Negotiating Committee (PSJSNC) comprising Government, represented by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Finance and Organised Labour, Associations and Institutions, on Tuesday concluded an agreement that the current basic single spine salary structure be increased by 13 per cent.

According to PSJSNC, the increment should be put into effect across board for 2015 at the current pay point relativity of 1.7 per cent.

The effective date for the implementation of the increment was January 1, 2015, but the new salary would be paid in February with the arrears for January.

The agreement was signed by Mr George Smith-Graham, Chief Executive, FWSC on behalf of Government and by Mr Asamoah, on behalf of Organised Labour, Associations and Institutions.

The National Tripartite Committee (NTC) also reached an agreement to increase the 2015 Daily Minimum Wage by 16.7 per cent.

Source: GNA

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