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Organizing in Ghana’s growing automotive sector moves into fast gear

23 December, 2021With new automotive assembly plants being commissioned in Ghana, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), is intensifying its recruitment and organizing of workers in the sector.

This year Toyota and Volkswagen plants were commissioned with the latter expected to produce up to 20,000 vehicles per year.

The union has organized 1982 workers in the auto companies including those that sell components and parts. Only 154 of the workers are women, and the union is calling on the auto industry to have gender equity in their recruitment policies.

The ICU says it will ensure that the workers in the sector are paid living wages and wants the companies to be involved in collective bargaining and social dialogue, and to adhere to better health and safety standards including Covid-19 protocols. Additionally, the union wants the companies to invest in automation that will upskill Ghanaian workers. The union is also part of the VW Network which includes unions from Kenya, Namibia and South Africa and the VW European Works Council. The aims of the network include promoting decent work for VW workers.

Morgan Ayawine, ICU general secretary says:

“Importantly, at VW Ghana we have a collective agreement, and the earnings are above the minimum wages. Members have access to all the statutory benefits as specified in the labour laws including social security. Further, ICU has been able to negotiate additional benefits for the workers such as free or subsidized medical care among other benefits.“

According to the National Tripartite Committee minimum wages in Ghana for 2021 are 12.53 Cedis per day or 301 Cedis monthly (US$49). However, the Anker Research Institute estimate living wages for a family of two adults and two children to be about US$250.

The growth of the automotive sector is supported by government policies that include the Industrial Development Programme which aims to attract major automobile manufacturing companies to the country. The policy also seeks to create highly skilled jobs in auto assembly and the manufacturing of components and parts.

The signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is also seen as bringing benefits to the automotive industry in Ghana that include exporting locally assembled vehicles to neighbouring countries at reduced tariffs. The automotive industry in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) and some African governments, including Ghana, are exploring possibilities of setting up automotive manufacturing hubs under the AfCFTA.
Further, the Ghana Automotive Development Policy (GADP) gives 5 and 10-years tax holidays for the importing semi-knocked down (SKD) and complete knock down (CKD) kits, respectively. Imports of material and equipment to build the plants are also exempted from duties and other charges.

“Growth of the automotive sector in Ghana is creating much-needed jobs in the country and the ICU should increase its organizing efforts in the growing sector. Recruiting more members and attaining majority thresholds at the workplaces will enable the union to be better positioned in demanding decent working conditions and advancing workers’ rights in the sector,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for SSA.
ICU, which has a membership of 140 000 workers, organizes in sectors that include the automotive, metal, paper, printing, and textiles, garments, shoe, and leather and the informal sector.