Opinion

Has Health Agencies, Facilities Under Health Ministry Broke 'Collective Agreement' With Health Services Workers Union Of TUC Ghana?

Has Health Agencies, Facilities Under Health Ministry Broke 'Collective Agreement' With Health Services Workers Union Of TUC Ghana?

The term “collective agreement” is used to describe a written contract between the employer and a union that outlines many of the terms and conditions of employment for employees in a bargaining unit. The terms and conditions are reached through collective bargaining between the employer and the union. The kinds of terms and conditions covered by a collective agreement typically include wages and benefits, as well as terms and conditions of employment that relate to e.g., job postings; obligations and responsibilities of the employer, the employee and the union; and a dispute resolution process(usually a grievance and arbitration procedure).

By no stretch of imagination can it be said that Health Agencies and Facilities under the Ministry of Health (employer) has no type of contract with the Health Services Workers Union of TUC Ghana (employee). If that wasn’t so, then we would not have seen what happened between the Health Agencies and Facilities under Ministry of Health and the Health Services Workers Union of TUC Ghana on December 11, 2015 where the employer and employees signed a Collective Agreement in accordance with Labour Act 2003 (Act 651). The CA which took precedence over any other existing collective agreement was to take effect on January 1, 2016.

It should be noted that Health Agencies and Facilities under the Ministry of Health (employer) have never willingly agreed to enter a fair and proper relationship with the Health Services Workers Union of TUC Ghana (their employees) as the history of trade union struggle has made quite clear. In fact without the long and arduous struggle of the workers and their trade union organization, and the labour movement itself, we would not have the worker and labor contracts that we now have in existence along with the many benefits and conditions of employment that many workers now enjoy.

Even those workers who are not a part of the Union otherwise known as free riders, have benefited from the spill-over and struggles of HSWU; for it was through those struggles that standards of employment have influenced the health sector overall. It could be said that the struggles of labour has imposed a type of social contract upon the country, although it was never looked upon as such, for it was only through great reluctance that the employer class of this country was forced to accept the existence of trade unions and the labour movement and the great benefits it has had for the workers of this country.

For a long time, the existence of trade unions was considered by some political class and employers not to be in the best interest of the country and its leaders, in particular the Trades Union Congress of Ghana with its affiliate like Health Services Workers Union which was the spearhead of the trade unions movement.

As I stated in the early part of this commentary it can be said the term “collective agreement” is a written contract between the employer and a union that outlines many of the terms and conditions of employment for employees in a bargaining unit, but it is an unfortunate fact that Health Agencies and Facilities under Ministry of Health has not fulfilled its part of the collective agreement with impunity. The closest the workers have had Health Agencies and Facilities under Ministry of Health that could be considered to have a collective agreement with the Health Services Workers Union is the selective implementation of the non-monetary aspect of the agreement, although it has not stated that it has no such contract with the Union. However, its policies as employer, would point in that direction.

To conclude indulge me to quote Louis Brandeis, in his paper themed - The Curse of Bigness: Miscellaneous Papers of Louis Dembitz Brandeis, “strong responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace”.

Health Agencies and Facilities under the Ministry of Health should endeavour to commit itself to the fulfillment of the collective agreement to ensure industrial peace and harmony moving forward. It should underestimate the Health Services Workers Union of TUC Ghana.

The author is an Industrial Relations and a fellow at Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS) and can be reached on