The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has asked the government to convert the National Cathedral project into a hospital.
Suggesting a number of actions that the government must take to help improve the current economic challenges the country was facing, the TUC said the Cathedral project was not an essential expenditure and it would better serve a purpose if converted into a hospital.
Addressing this year’s national May Day parade in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital, yesterday, the Secretary-General of the TUC, Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, said: “We believe that government can lead us out of this crisis by cutting expenditure on non-essentials including the need to stop spending our hard-earned revenue on a national Cathedral. In fact, it will be better to convert that project into a national hospital.
“The President has always said he wants to create another Notre Dame in Ghana so we can attract a lot of visitors but we disagree. In fact, comrades, it will be better to convert the project into a national hospital,” he stressed.
Held in Bolgatanga for the first time, the 2023 May Day parade was on the theme: “Protecting incomes and pensions in an era of economic crisis: Our responsibility.”
Thousands of workers belonging to about 31 organisations thronged the refurbished Bolgatanga Jubilee Park to take part in this year’s May Day. Celebration with pomp and excitement.
As early as 7a.m., workers of the various unions who were neatly dressed in polo T-shirts bearing the names of their unions filled the two stands at the park and under canopies, with excitement and happiness visibly written on their faces.
Many of the workers in the region were particularly happy that the parade was held in the region for the first time as it enabled them to have a proper feel of the May Day parade which was usually held in Accra.
The atmosphere at the grounds was full of joy and delight as many of them displayed their individual placards in front of them while seated to catch the attention of the media to trumpet their grievances for them.
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion included the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah; the Minister for the Interior, Ambrose Dery, the Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul; Deputy Labour Minister, Bright Wireko-Brobbey, and the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu.
Also present were a member of the Council of State, Tongraan Kubilsong Nalebtang; the Executive Secretary of the National Labour Commission, Ofosu Asamoah; former Upper East Regional Minister, Patience Abayage, as well as the Municipal and District Chief Executives from the 15 MDAs in the region.
At the event and as part of the celebration, 41 workers from the various labour unions who distinguished themselves in the discharge of their duties were honoured.
Each was presented with a citation.
Describing the current economic challenges confronting the country as self-imposed, the TUC Secretary-General also advised the President to reduce the size of government as Ghana was going through economic challenges.
Although he acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy, workers did not believe that they were the fundamental causes of Ghana’s economic crisis.
“The two have exposed the weaknesses in the Ghanaian economy and the economic policy framework that has guided economic management in the country in the last 40 years.
“The reason Ghana has had to seek IMF support almost every three years is largely due to the flaws in the way our economy has been managed, based on neo-liberal free market ideology,” Dr Baah stressed.
He reiterated labour’s position that going to the IMF was not the solution but rather, cutting expenditure on non-essentials.
“We would like to reiterate our well-known position that the IMF programme can never take us out of this current economic crisis,” Dr Baah noted.
Also, the TUC Secretary-General said the solution to the challenges was within the government’s power, and again called on the President to reduce the size of the government since the nation had too many ministers and deputy ministers running the affairs of the country.
“We have to change the situation ourselves as Ghanaians. We believe strongly that government can lead us out of this crisis, and the government can do so by cutting expenditure on non-essentials including the need to stop spending our hard-earned revenue on a national cathedral.”
“Mr President, you can also reduce the size of your government. Ghana has too many ministers and deputy ministers.”
Dr Baah further said in the face of the economic challenges, it was important to protect decent jobs that afforded workers the opportunity to earn regular incomes.
He expressed concern that too many workers were losing their jobs because “some employers are abusing their rights to hire and fire workers. Other employers are also taking advantage of the weaknesses in the labour law and replacing permanent employment contracts with fixed-term contracts.”
The TUC boss thus stressed the urgency in completing the review of the national labour laws to protect jobs and incomes.
“In the last five years the TUC has lost thousands of its members due to this practice which is being promoted and facilitated by private employment agencies.
“That is why we have been pushing for a review of the national labour laws to protect jobs and incomes,” Dr Baah emphasised.
In an interview with some of the workers, they called on the government to deal with high inflation as it was taking a heavy toll on the meagre incomes of workers, saying, “ although, we were given a 30 per cent salary increase this year, we are not feeling its impact on our lives due to high inflation”.
Additionally, they called on the government to improve the incomes of workers while in active service so it will reflect in their pensions as well, stressing “ we think that if the disparities in the salaries of workers are addressed, workers will be better off while working and on retirement as well”.