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Don’t turn trade unions into welfare groups – PUWU General Secretary

The General Secretary of the Public Utility Workers Union (PUWU), Mr. Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi, has urged various Trade Unions not to lose focus of their core mandate of fighting for the interest of members.

He said it is unbecoming of Trade Unions to metamorphose into welfare groups.

While admitting the crucial need to support workers during trying times, Mr. Nyantakyi said unions must not shirk their core responsibility in favour of welfare activities.

“There is also the increasing phenomenon of members turning the trade union into welfare associations. Much as the welfare of members should be at the core of what we do as trade unions, we should not lose focus of our purpose of building a strong union to promote industrial relations at the workplace,” he said, adding that “We can make voluntary contributions to cater for our welfare issues, but we risk killing the spirit of unionism if we devote almost all our resources towards welfare, particularly using union dues for the supply of ‘rice and oil’ at the end of the year.” – Mr. Nyantakyi said.

Mr. Nyantakyi was speaking at the 12th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of PUWU held last Tuesday at the PUWU Hospitality and Conference Centre at Kasoa in the Central Region.

He highlighted the importance of trade unions in such a time where technology is gradually changing the face of work, explaining that most employers are seeking to cut cost by replacing staff with machines.

He said a lot of global developments are impacting nations and enterprises which in turn are affecting workers and work in general. He therefore underscored the need for trade unions to strategise to come up with solutions for the emerging challenges.

“We must begin to look at our approach to these challenges and plan strategically; what are the options we can adopt to take advantage of any opportunities and what are the measures we can employ to mitigate the adverse effects of these emerging challenges”, he quipped.

Mr. Nyantakyi indicated that the Union has so far been successful in its organization of workers within the institutions it has representation. He however highlighted the need to do more beyond the public sector.

He explained that the unions need to develop strategies to combat the threat of privatization which has become a thriving trend across the world with Ghana not being any different.

“The Union needs to develop strategies to combat the threat of privatization which has manifested in the form of management contract that hit GWCL (Ghana Water Company Limited) and recently the concession that affected ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana). As part of the processes of the management contract implementation at GWCL, a number of staff lost their jobs through retrenchment. Despite the failure of the ECG concession, the threat of privatization of the company is not gone, and we need to be very cautious and strategic as we go into the next quadrennial”, he cautioned.

The General Secretary also charged unions to take a critical look at the increasing breakaways at their fronts and the emergence of Yellow Unions.
He stated emphatically that the emergence of such groups is weakening the trade unions movement, and that the various unions must begin to find solutions to that.

One approach he recommended was for unions to ensure there is transparency and the full practice of democracy in the affairs of the unions.

“Another challenge that Unions now have to deal with is the increasing breakaways and also emergence of Yellow Unions. These splinter groups are contributing to the weakening of the trade union movement to the detriment of workers.”

“Most often these splinter groups and Yellow Unions are just to seek the personal or parochial interest of certain individuals rather than looking at the long-term effect on the strength of the Union.”

“We must ensure that good democratic principles are practiced and adhered to at all levels to address concerns of members. We must ensure that we do not promote ‘mob rule’ by the majority or encourage the ‘tyranny of the minority’, especially when they are backed by powerful individuals or groups”, Mr. Nyantakyi counseled.

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