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PROMOTING THE ILO DECENT WORK AGENDA IN THE INFORMAL ECONOMY (I.E.): THE ROLE OF TRADE UNIONS AND INFORMAL ECONOMY ASSOCIATIONS. . COUNTRY REPORT – GHANA TUC BY NADIA IBRAHIMAH. 1. INTRODUCTION: a) THE GHANAIAN SOCIETY .

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PROMOTING THE ILO DECENT WORK AGENDA IN THE INFORMAL ECONOMY (I.E.): THE ROLE OF TRADE UNIONS AND INFORMAL ECONOMY ASSOCIATIONS.

COUNTRY REPORT – GHANA TUC

BY NADIA IBRAHIMAH

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1 introduction a the ghanaian society
1. INTRODUCTION:a)THE GHANAIAN SOCIETY
  • Ghana is located in West Africa with a population of approximately 20 million. The sex ratio of the population is 97 males and 100 females or 51% female and 49% male in. The population is growing at about 2.7% per anum. The average household size is estimated at 5 members and life expectancy is 58years.
  • Ecologically, Ghana is divided into 3 zones: Coastal and Forest Zones (in the southern part of the country) and Savannah (in the northern part of the country)

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ghanaian society cont d
GHANAIAN SOCIETY CONT’D
  • Administratively Ghana is divided into ten (10) regions: 3 in the north and seven (7) in the south. Majority of the population lives in the seven (7) southern regions
  • The capital city is Accra with a population of about 3 million (15% of the country’s population). The two (2) other cities are Kumasi (4 hours drive from Accra) and Takoradi (3 hours drive from Accra)
  • 1/3 of the country’s population live in the urban areas, 2/3 live in the rural area.
  • Literacy rate among adults 15years and above is 57%

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b the informal economy i e in ghana gh living standard survey
b) THE INFORMAL ECONOMY (I.E.) IN GHANA(Gh. Living Standard Survey)

The Informal Economy in Ghana is

appropriately defined to cover all

“unregistered” economic activities

(including agriculture). Over 80% of

the economically active population

in Ghana are in the informal

economy

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categories of i e
Categories of I. E.
  • There are three (3) categories of operators in the informal economy.
    • Small businesses with few employees, mostly in the area of service, artisans or small production. In reality they are SME’s (Small & Medium Sized Enterprises). This group includes a large number of artisans within wood, metal, textiles and other crafts; it also includes small shops, dress makers, hair dressers, mechanics and repairers etc. Quite a large number of these businesses have the potential for growth and can be supported (by giving them more regular jobs) through programmes of strengthening their managerial and entrepreneurial skills

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categories of i e cont d
Categories of I. E. cont’d
  • Self employed persons working with one or more unpaid family members in areas such as farming, crafts, trading etc. but without any paid labour. These groups often have to look for additional (or new) forms of income because of market trends and since their investments in equipment etc. most often are modest, they may shift their attention to completely new areas of income. Without employing paid labour, these businesses rarely have potential for growth as individual businesses, but through formation of cooperatives or associations working together, some of them may reach higher levels

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categories of i e cont d7
Categories of I. E. cont’d
  • Self – employed persons working alone without real capital. They work at minimum level and will change their trade or position if something else comes up. This group includes street vendors, subsistence farmers, domestic workers, petty traders etc. It is difficult to support them to grow within their trade, but they can be encouraged to form associations and cooperatives and subsequently reach higher levels.

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c ghana trades union congress tuc ref gh tuc constitution regulations reviewed
C) GHANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS(TUC)(ref.: Gh. TUC Constitution & Regulations, Reviewed )
  • TUC is the biggest umbrella organisation for trade union activities in Ghana. It is made up of Seventeen affiliate national unions which are constituted mainly along industrial sectors. These affiliate national unions are:
    • General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU)
    • Union of Industry Commerce and Finance (UNICOF)
    • Communication Workers Union (CWU)
    • Public Services Workers Union (PSWU)
    • Local Government Workers Union (LGWU)
    • Maritime & Dockworkers Union (MDU)
    • National Union of Seamen (NUS)
    • Health Services Workers Union (HSWU)

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ghana trades union congress cont d
GHANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS CONT’D
  • Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU)
  • Construction, Building Material Workers Union
  • Public Utility Workers Union (PUWU)
  • Timber & Woodworkers Union (TWU)
  • Railway Enginemen Union (REU)
  • Railway Workers Union (RWU)
  • General Transport Petroleum & Chemical Workers Union (GTPCWU)
  • Teachers & Educational Workers Union (TEWU)

The unions are autonomous and pursue their own

activities within the framework of their constitution

and their areas of legally accepted jurisdiction. The

TUC is non-political and its 1992 constitution debars

all elected officials from identifying with any political

Party.

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ghana trades union congress cont d10
GHANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS CONT’D

It has its headquarters at the hall of Trade Unions

in Accra. The TUC has over the years continued

to experience fluctuations in membership. This is

due to dwindling formal sector employment which

traditionally serve as the strength for TUC

membership. For instance from over one million

membership (between 1958 -1983) and five hundred

thousand membership (between 1983 – 1996), the

total membership stands at 300,000 as at now.

Without the addition of informal workers the

situation could have been worse.

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2 ghana tuc s involvement in the organisation of i e operators
2. GHANA TUC’s INVOLVEMENT IN THE ORGANISATION OF I. E. OPERATORS

Trade unions in Ghana have been involved in

organizational work in the informal economy since

1978 when the General Agricultural Workers Union

(GAWU) of TUC started organizing rural workers. The

Union created a structure called the “Rural Workers

Department” to facilitate the work. The Timber & Wood

workers Union, an affiliate of TUC started organizing

charcoal burners, small scale carpenters, chain saw

operators and wood carvers. The Industrial/Commercial

Workers Union (ICU) began with the Organisation of

hairdressers, beauticians and domestic Workers while

the Public Service Workers Union started organizing

lotto receivers & professional photographers. The ICU

has since severed their relationship with Ghana TUC.

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ghana tuc s involvement in the organisation of i e operators 2
GHANA TUC’s INVOLVEMENT IN THE ORGANISATION OF I. E. OPERATORS-2

In addition to these unions, the GPRTU an informal economy

union which operates by organizing self employed

commercial drivers and vehicle owners has been a pioneer

member of GTUC since 1945.

Even though the informal economy has been

Growing over the years and especially in the 1980’s

where many formal workers were retrenched and

laid off as a result of the Structural Adjustment

Programme (SAP) introduced by the government of the

day, a situation which impacted negatively on union

membership, the union did not take advantage of the growth

of the sector to add up to their numbers.

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ghana tuc s involvement in the organisation of i e operators 3
GHANA TUC’s INVOLVEMENT IN THE ORGANISATION OF I. E. OPERATORS-3

This was due to lack of political will and clarity of

direction on the part of union leaders. This was

apparently as a result of the uncertain nature of the

sector. The general feeling at the time was that it

was much more expensive and time consuming to

organise in the informal economy. Union leaders

were not sure of the rate of returns on the human

and financial investments made. Another belief was

that the sector was a transitory phenomenon and

not an enduring, even growing economic activity. Mean

while the unions continued to experience decline in

Membership.

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3 new strategies for organizing ref org dept tuc
3. NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING (ref.: Org. Dept. TUC)

In 1996 the quadrennial delegates congress of

TUC considered the implications of the declining

trade union membership and adopted the policy on

the informal sector organisation. The policy

identified organizing operators in the informal

economy as a major challenge that required creative

approach and mobilisation. Following the formulation of

the policy a national leadership workshop, attended by

all the affiliate unions was organised to strategise for the

implementation of the policy. One of the issues that

came out for discussion was the benefits and

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new strategies for organizing cont
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont.

challenges of organising informal operators into an

organisation of formal workers like TUC. The

workshop agreed that it was worth organising the

informal economy operators because their organisation

into the unions will enhance the leverage of TUC in the

eyes of the government and the general public, and

TUC will indeed be in a better position to claim to be a

truly workers representative and thus strengthen the

bargaining power of TUC with government and

employers. At the same time the informal economy

operators themselve will immensely benefit from TUC’s

organising skills and use this to strengthen the internal

democracy of their association.

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new strategies for organizing cont16
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont.

The informal economy operators will also benefit

from the several educational programmes

organised by the TUC. More importantly, the

TUC will serve as voice and representation for the

vulnerable in the informal economy. Another issue

that was identified was how organised informal

economy operators who are not on regular source

of income could pay subscription fees, since

traditionally trade unions depended on union dues

from their members for their sustenance.

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new strategies for organizing cont d
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

The workshop recognized that even though

payment of union dues was an important factor in

trade union organisation and that the payment of

such dues shows members commitment to the

organisation, in view of the fact that informal

economy operators were not on regular incomes, it

was important to allow them pay subscription fees

at their own convenience. For example the

informal economy associations they belong to

could be made to pay the agreed dues on members

behalf. Payments could be effected on daily, weekly,

monthly or yearly basis.

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new strategies for organizing cont d18
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

Considering the peculiar nature of informal economy

operators with regard to sources of income, it was

agreed that unions should not use the amount of

funds from their organised informal economy

members to determine their policies and programmes

for them and that the overall objectives for organising

in the informal economy (i.e. increasing our leverage

as a truly representative of all workers and assisting

to give a large number of voiceless work force, voice

and representation) should be the underlying

principle of our organizational work in the informal

economy.

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new strategies for organizing cont d19
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

It was agreed that to make organizational work in

the sector much easier, the union should focus on

organising informal economy associations rather

than individual operators. Another critical issue

was the recognition that informal economy

operators tend to have several needs and the fact

that the traditional employee – employer relations

that trade unions are used to over the years do not

exist for traditional bargaining arrangements to be

effected.

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new strategies for organizing cont d20
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

Indeed while the workshop acknowledged the fact

that informal economy operators, by nature of their

work, could make several demands, trade unions

should be careful on their promises to this group of

workers and must constantly remind themselves of

the fact that as trade unions, they may not have

the funds to meet all the needs of their members.

Trade unions can represent informal economy

workers at meetings with government ministries,

municipal and local authorities.

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new strategies for organizing cont d21
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

They could also effectively advocate for good

social and economic policies for them. The

workshop recommended for the unions to review

their constitutions in order to mainstream informal

economy operators into their union structures.

One important strategy being used by TUC and

the affiliate unions in their organizational work is

the use of people they call “contact persons” who

act as links between them and the potential informal

economy association they intended organising.

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new strategies for organizing cont d22
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

The unique aspect of this structure was the fact that the

contact persons were identified and selected from

membership of the informal economy associations the

affiliate unions intended organising; it was the belief that

informal economy operators tend to have more faith in their

own colleague operators and listen to them than from

someone they see as a complete stranger from a trade

union office.

Ghana TUC have so far being able to develop training

manuals for the affiliate national unions to assist them

train their officers responsible for organisation.

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new strategies for organizing cont d23
NEW STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZING Cont’d

It has also developed educational materials for the

national unions to use in training their contact persons,

newly elected executives of organised informal

economy associations as well as the core leadership of

the TUC. Another important publication is the

newsletters on TUC activities in the informal economy

that comes out yearly to sensitize the Ghanaian Media

and the general public.

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4 challenges and the way forward
4. CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD

Even though it is widely acknowledged that TUC

has made some progress with regard to the organisation

of workers in the informal economy, considering the

large pool of informal economy workers in Ghana (87% of

the total national economy), and given the enabling

environment that provides for freedom of association for

all workers (Labour Law 651) and the existence of

several informal economy associations in the country

ready for organisation, It is the belief that Ghana TUC

could have done more organisational work in the informal

economy than it has done so far.

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challenges and the way forward cont d
CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD CONT’D

Some people attribute the apparent slow pace of

organisational work to the method used. For

example unions have the liberty to organise

informal economy workers into their unions and

thus a union can decide not to organise or

organise at its own pace and convenience. Others

attribute the slow pace of organisational work to

other factors such as lack of commitment and

political will on the part of leadership, inadequate

resources and the inability of unions to develop

appropriate strategies to attract and maintain informal

economy workers.

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challenges and the way forward cont d26
CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD CONT’D

Indeed it is the feeling of those advocating for a

paradigm change in organisational methods that TUC

encourage the formation of one single umbrella union to

be responsible for informal economy workers. It is

believed that such an organisation which could be an

affiliate of TUC would focus more and better serve the

interest of its members i.e. the informal economy

workers than the present arrangement where informal

economy workers are made to compete with their

counterparts in the formal sector within the same union

for scarce resources and needs. As an affiliate of TUC,

such a union would enjoy all the rights and

responsibilities enshrined in the TUC constitution. It would

have a seat in all the TUC structures and its leaders would

be eligible for leadership positions in TUC

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conclusions
CONCLUSIONS

Indeed it can be said that all the arguments deduced for

the organisation of informal economy workers by TUC

are valid. What is important however is to consider these

as challenges and find the appropriate strategies to

address that for a better organisation of informal

economy workers.

In the light of the continuous decline in trade union

membership as a result of present global economic

dictates, it is important for trade unions, including the

Ghana TUC to realize that their relevance as workers

organisation is seriously under threat.

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conclusions28
CONCLUSIONS

It must also be realized that no serious trade union can

claim to represent workers when in actual fact they only

can count on the membership from formal sector

workers. While it is true informal economy workers need

the support and services of trade unions to ensure the

protection of their interests and the defense of their

rights. It is also true trade unions require informal

workers to strengthen their organisation and make it

more legitimate and acceptable as workers organisation.

As trade unions we must find a way to develop the

appropriate strategies and make the necessary resources

available for more organisational work in the informal

economy.

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