Tripartite Engagements: Having Conversations Of The Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the most preponderant social and economic issue that is causing upheavals in the lives of many workers and at workplaces, leaving many anxious.

Employers too face huge challenges during this period, with businesses not in optimal production, patronage and sales have slumped, while profits have plummeted.

The dilemma that the pandemic presents to employment relationships is, therefore, dire and can only be resolved in a collaborative manner.

Last Tuesday (April 28, 2020), three labour unions — the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL) — called for a tripartite engagement on the plight of workers in the wake of the employment hardships presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his address on Labour Day, also tasked the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to activate a stakeholder engagement on labour issues and how to overcome post-COVID-19 challenges.

Indeed, loss of profits and the low patronage of goods and services due to stay-at-home directives and the three-week restrictions in movement resulted in businesses laying off workers, asking some to take part or the whole of their annual leave and some terminating completely employment contracts.

As the Director of Research and Policy at the TUC stated, any decision on employment relationships during the pendency of the pandemic and after could not be decided ‘unilaterally’.

The Daily Graphic shares in the assertion that there is the need for the collaborative resolution of all employment-related challenges brought about by the pandemic. Both employers and employees must sit together, reflect soberly on the issues and find common grounds for normalcy to prevail.
The government, the labour unions and employers must sit and talk, as prescribed in Section 113 (1) (c) of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651): “The National Tripartite Committee shall consult with partners in the labour market on matters of social and economic importance.”

Given the weak economies all over the world, employment has, for some years now, become an important indicator in the welfare of individuals.

Unemployment erodes an individual’s capacity to contribute towards the needs of those in his or her immediate household or extend a hand to others in his or her community or extended family. It erodes confidence and takes away the will to continue living.

The call for a tripartite engagement among parties in an employment relationship is, therefore, apt and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations must begin the process.

Various constituents of employers, employees and government agencies, including the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and the NLC, must meet and iron out the finer details of their employment relationships which are being impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the movement restrictions and stay-at-home directives, many orders were implemented by employers. Some allowed their workers to work from home, some asked workers to take their outstanding leave, while others asked workers to stay at home for some time to be re-engaged later.

In discussing these issues, it is our expectation that all parties will converse in good faith. Engaging in good faith means discussing issues with the sincerity of intentions, with no dark motives.

This is important because the COVID-19 pandemic is not the making of the government, employers or employees. It is an unforeseen natural disaster to which all are susceptible.

Yes, these are the engagements of the times that must be had in good faith.