Finance Minister, Seth Terkpeh has revealed that government is unable to meet demands by labour unions as a result of some critical payments and personal emoluments that have been effected in the last few weeks.
As government is saddled with multiple industrial actions threatening the economic framework of the country, it has become necessary to strategise a holistic approach to addressing concerns of labour through an industrial truce.
Admitting payment challenges, Mr. Seth Terkpeh highlighted liquidity issues, particularly, for the first quarter of 2013. These he attributed to a difficult fiscal year of 2012. Economists have largely attributed the difficulty to the depreciation of the Cedi with its rippling effect.
He was speaking on the Super Morning Show, Monday regarding critical challenges faced by government and the possibility of resourcing the agencies mandated to ensure the smooth implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure. Mr. Terkpeh aslo highlighted on efforts being made to adequately equip authorised institutions to handle industrial relations vis-a vis budgetary implications
Another challenge confronting government according to the Minister, is the issue of borrowing and expected income. “Even if government makes projections, they are dependent on expected income”, he noted.
Working towards industrial truce
Dr. Anthony Simmons, UTAG President confers with CEO of FWSC George Smith-Graham at a recent Labour Forum, organised by Joy FM
Mr. Terpkeh however said the Ministry of Finance which makes the actual payments, welcomes the calls for an analysis of the Single Spine Salary Structure, admitting the difficulty the government has been confronted with in its implementation.
“Last year was a difficult fiscal year and continual borrowing to pay the arrears will cripple us because you are depending on borrowing which comes with interests. Hence need for stake holders to come to some understanding to avoid a lump sum payments”, he emphasised.
On the issue of using government’s liquidity challenges as a ploy to deny workers their due, the minister told Super Morning Show Host, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah that government was only asking for moderation with respect to payments.
“We’re only asking for moderation with respect to payments; the impacts of the migration are different therefore let's manage it carefully because some workers are yet to be migrated and others are yet to be paid".
Appreciating the plea, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah however quizzed the minister on how some workers are expected to accept refusal and disapproval of agreed terms of conditions of work, including interim market premium, basic salaries as well as its roll out for workers in some sectors.
Mr. Terkpeh maintained that in labour negotiations, deferments of payment are usually as a result of inadequate funds, especially due to budgetary constraints especially from donors. This is what usually limits overall payments.
The minister stated government was eager to work towards an industrial truce, an initiative the President had already set into motion, noting President Mahama’s passionate appeal for striking labour to return to work while issues were sorted out as evidence.
He also alluded to engagements that have been initiated for dialogue on short and long term framework as well as schedules to address the rampant labour agitations that have recently characterized the economy.
To this end, “the Chief of Staff, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress and some Clergy have met with various labour groups, but government desires a broader Stakeholder debate”.
Even though no definite dates are set, for this debate, the minister is hopeful that the initiative will yield results.
With regard to the labour institutions mandated to ensure resolution of labour concerns like the National Labour Commission and the Fair Wages and Salaries Structure, “ I have issued a directive to ensure they are resourced” to do an efficient job.
With regard to government representatives on labour institution, Mr. Terpkeh assured the public of an effective representation from the Finance Ministry to facilitate dialogue with workers. He however conceded that there was need to enhance negotiation, diplomatic and lobbying skills as well as strategies to avert what is sometimes perceived as a bluff from the labour institutions.
He also assuaged public fears that the Labour Minister has been sidelined in all these deliberations. He maintained that the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Nii Armah Ashitey has been involved in all deliberations, and chairs most of the meetings.
He however noted that more is heard of the Finance ministry because of the monetary issues involved.