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Union adopts a decent work campaign strategy for organizing artisanal and small-scale miners in Ghana

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16 September, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU), says one of the strategies to organize artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) is to adopt an approach that seeks to formalize and promote a decent work agenda in the informal mining sector.

The union explained its strategy at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-IndustriALL crossing the divide project workshop on 2-3 September in Accra. The project aims to complement the International Labour Organization Recommendation 204 on transition from the informal to the formal economy and promotes the use of innovation by trade unions in engaging with the miners.

The aims of the workshop were to bring together key stakeholders: trade unions, researchers, civil society organizations, government, ASM associations, traditional authorities, communities, and other stakeholders to find ways of improving the sector. According to the GMWU, this could be done through using the decent work pillars of full and productive employment, rights at work, social protection, and promoting social dialogue and international labour standards. Further, emphasis was put on health and safety.

The hybrid workshop had 20 participants in the conference room whilst others attended online. The participants included officials from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, representatives from the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners and from the trade think tank, Third World Network Africa. Others came from the GMWU and the FES-Ghana and South Africa Offices.

Abdul-Moomin Ggbana, the general secretary for GMWU said:

“Calls to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining fit into the mission of the Ghana mineworkers. We want the miners to be involved in social dialogue, enjoy their rights at work, and to have their operations registered. This will promote decent work which will benefit ASM.”

“Ghana is amongst the important actors that provide us with a model of recognition, formalizing, and organizing ASM that is inclusive of women’s rights. Following our meeting in Johannesburg in 2019, there were recommendations on taking the programme forward through learning and sharing of strategies and tactics. This is one of the purposes of this workshop,”

said Shane Choshane, FES-Trade Union Competence Centre, project manager.

He added that while South Africa is currently considering formalizing ASM, Ghana is a step ahead and already has laws for the registration and licensing of the sector.

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining said:

“It is important to create a decent working environment and due diligence in ASM. Occupational health and safety are important for the sector. With informality, workers are exposed to dangerous working conditions including landslides and dangerous chemicals such as mercury. Other dangerous work includes manual rock crushing, and this means miners are at risk of injury and death every day when they enter the mining sites with no protection.”

Gender inequality and gender-based violence were other areas of concern that were discussed in the workshop and the situation in Ghana was presented by a labour and gender expert Bashiratu Kamal.

“Like in most mining activities, women in ASM do the least important tasks, earn the lowest money, and face gender-based violence and sexual harassment. This is caused by gender inequality that is common in mining operations which is worsened by informality. This is where stakeholder engagement by trade unions on gender responsive due diligence is essential as an intervention,”

said Armelle Seby, IndustriALL gender coordinator.
According to reports there are about one million artisanal and small-scale miners in gold mining in Ghana who are producing about 35 per cent of the country’s gold. This is about 60 per cent of the country’s labour force. The miners are said to look after households that make up about 4.5 million people.
The Ghana workshop is the first in series of meetings that will take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to discuss ways of improving mining and working conditions in the ASM sector.