The Abosso Gold Fields announcement that it will retrench 340 mineworkers at its Damang operations in June adds more pain to the mineworkers in Ghana. The notice comes immediately after the retrenchment of 2,150 workers at the company's Tarkwa mine.
According to IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMWU), the retrenchments are meant to bust the union as all unionized workers were retrenched at Tarkwa. After the retrenchments, Gold Fields offered six months to two-year contracts to some of the workers.
The union sees the retrenchments as an attack on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98. For example, freedom of association on the right to strike was violated when workers were beaten up by the military during a strike at Tarkwa in March. The brutality led to some workers being hospitalized for injuries from the beatings. The right to organize and collective bargaining is also under threat.
Prince William Ankrah, GMWU general secretary, said:
“The ruthless decision by Gold Fields Ghana to lay off all employees at Tarkwa mine contrary to the claims of its CEO (Nick Holland), amount to bad faith and an attack on the fundamental rights of the workers freedom of association and collective bargaining. With no form of protection, current employees on the so-called fixed term contract are at the mercy of the company.”
The union is against the cheapening of workers' contracts from permanent to casual. By opting for casual work Gold Fields is destroying decent jobs and replacing them with precarious ones and worse working conditions.
Adds Ankrah: “The union believes that the business imperatives at Gold Fields Ghana Tarkwa mine do not require contract mining and therefore terminating employees on grounds of redundancy regardless remains questionable. Gold Fields' actions are a calculated attack on the union and on collective bargaining. Indeed, its actions are deliberatively targeted at eroding every gain made through collective bargaining and therefore runs counter to the ILO decent work agenda.”
As negotiations continue, a committee from the Ministry of Labour, Lands and Natural Resources is intervening in the matter and the GMWU has gone to court to have the retrenchments reversed.
Paule France Ndessomin the IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says the GMWU is making the right call. “Retrenching so many workers must be resisted, and Ghana Gold Fields must not be allowed to retrench workers at will. Decent jobs must be preserved and not be replaced with precarious work.”