Trade union leaders have been urged to sharpen their negotiation skills, through constant training, to effectively perform their collective bargaining roles, using scientific data, to achieve the desired outcomes in the face of fluctuating inflation.
Collective bargaining is the process by which trade union executives negotiate with employers, on behalf of their members, for better conditions of service, which include wage increments and health benefits.
Employers work to make profits and protect their investments, hence pushing for employees’ benefits must be based on scientific data and convincing facts to make a strong case to gain better results.
Mr Patel Mohamed Saliem, the Programme Manager, International Federation of Workers Education Association (IFWEA) South Africa, said this at a workshop on Collective Bargaining in Accra for union executives, organised by UNI Global Africa, a network of unions, and the Trades Union Solidarity Centre of Finland (SASK).
The three-day workshop, in collaboration with the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU Ghana), Communication Workers Union (CWU Ghana) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Security Union, was attended by about 30 executives from the affiliate unions.
It was on the theme: “Building Workers’ Power Through Collective Bargaining” and forms part of the UNI SASK Project, which, among other things, is to enhance the bargaining power of the unions, improve the working environment for women, and increase union density.
Mr Saliem said: “Bargaining for better conditions of service is a big bone of contention for trade unionists, who need to effectively strategise to ensure the improvement in wages over time, due to rising inflation in most cases.”
Inflation kept going up without any commensurate percentage increase in wages because, most of the time, the real increments, compared with the real inflation rates, were nothing to write home about as workers’ purchasing power rather reduced due to high commodity prices, he said.
The rate of inflation ended 2022 at 54.1 per cent from 12.6 per cent in 2021, but has consistently declined since the beginning of 2023 to 38.1 per cent in September, down two percentage points from 40.1 per cent recorded in August, according to the Ghana Statistical Service.
The decline, notwithstanding, Mr Saliem urged the union executives to take inflation and other economic indicators seriously to enable them to track the progress made or otherwise, in terms of the national minimum wage, to inform their negotiations.
“Copies of the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) must also be made available to members, both in hard and soft copies, which will serve as tools to compare whether or not there had been improvements.”
He said Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique were among the special countries for the SASK due to the vibrancy of the unions and the skills improvement by the leaders to employ scientific approaches in their bargaining mandates.
He took participants through the creation of their CBA databases and introduced them to the UNI Global websites where union members could register for various skills enhancement programmes to improve their outputs.
Madam Rauni Soderlund, the Senior Advisor for International Affairs in the Finance Sector of Finland, said the unions in Finland had to insist on the review of all administrative policies that did not enhance workers living standards, which had inured to the interests of employees.
She urged the union leaders to sustain the trust reposed in them by members by going the extra mile to ensure they achieved the set goals for the ultimate improvement in conditions of service.
Mr Morgan Ayawine and Mr Joseph Yao Hotor, the General Secretaries of ICU and CWU, respectively, expressed gratitude to UNI Global Africa and SASK for their continuous empowerment of their affiliates in Ghana, through constant leadership training.
They pledged to sustain that relationship and trust to achieve the vision, goals, and objectives to safeguard workers’ rights and privileges, as well as ensure better working environments.
Participants presented drafts of their newly created databases and expressed commitment to improving on same and share with their various union members to keep them abreast of current trends to foster workers’ respect and dignity.