The Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMWU) has announced a series of strikes in solidarity with 2,150 mineworkers who face retrenchments at Gold Fields Ghana Limited Tarkwa mine – about 200km from Accra. There will be strikes on 13 March at Tarkwa and Damang, a sympathy strike by mining workers on 20 March, and a general strike on 27 March.
GMWU, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, is disputing the reasons put forward for the retrenchments arguing that Gold Fields simply wants to replace permanent workers with contract ones. Despite the Labour Division of the High Court in Accra not ruling in its favour to stop the retrenchments, GMWU has appealed.
Gold Fields is ignoring the country’s labour laws and two collective bargaining agreement that it signed with GMWU which are clear on fair retrenchments.
Prince William Ankrah, GMWU general secretary, says:
Typical of their ruthless character as multinationals and their penchant for disregarding host country legal framework and sanctity of contracts, the company has unilaterally set aside the Labour Act 2003 and the collective agreements and has gone ahead to force redundancy terminations on the workers.” The company is also refusing to negotiate salary adjustments for 2018.
The union is concerned by the military presence at the mine which put so much pressure on workers to an extent that some signed the redundancy letters.
Following the huge armed and military presence, an atmosphere of insecurity, fear and panic has since engulfed the workers with most of them not too sure of what to expect next.
Workers who signed the letters were only given a month’s contract afterwards under terms and conditions not disclosed to the union. Those who refused to sign were locked out of the mine while union officials who tried to visit were arrested or refused entry.
IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, Valter Sanches, says:
Gold Fields Limited must instruct the management at Gold Fields Ghana Limited at the Tarkwa mine to revert immediately the decision to terminate the permanent contracts of over 2,150 workers, engage in good-faith negotiations with the Ghana Mineworkers’ Union – thus heeding the repeated calls from the union to sit down to negotiate, inter alia, the 2018 salary adjustment and the collective agreement review – and refrain from violating the fundamental rights of workers and union officials.
The union has also announced that it is planning an international campaign to expose Gold Fields’s bullying and disregard of workers’ rights at international stock exchanges where the company is listed in Johannesburg, New York and the Swiss Exchange. A petition will be sent to the ILO, and South African trade unions and global trade unions will be approached for solidarity.