With stunning bluntness, Mr Ignatious Baffour Awuah, Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, has mentioned his signing of “Neutrality Allowance” which was spearheaded by the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOSAG) as a regretful decision in hindsight.
Addressing delegates at the 14h Quadrennial Congress of CLOSAG in Cape, the Minister for Employment and Labour in commendation for the CLOSAG leadership said: “There is only one thing I have done since taking office that I regret. I wish I have the opportunity to reverse the Neutrality Allowance.
“I don’t know what Dr Isaac Bampoe-Addo, the Executive Secretary of CLOSAG did to me. Before I realized, I had signed it, and I received backlash from some members of government for that action.”
His regrets, however, seemed to have summed up a sharp recognition from the CLOSAG member as they responded with thunderous applause to register their delight over the approval.
The 14th Quadrennial Congress was held on the theme: “Introducing Small and Medium Scale Enterprises as an avenue for self-sufficiency.”
On April 2022, CLOGSAG started a strike action, citing their frustration over the Government’s delay in paying the allowance.
Their case was that it was to take effect from January 2022, and sealed with a Memorandum of Understanding, but payment never commenced, despite reminders.
The neutrality allowance was to ensure that civil and local government workers discharged their duties professionally, without getting involved in partisan activities.
News of the Government’s acceptance to pay the allowance to CLOGSAG generated not only massive disapproval and increased rumblings on other labour fronts, and demands by other groups.
In responding to the concerns of the plights of workers, Mr Awuah reminded workers of the many interventions the government had to make to secure jobs and incomes, chart a path out of the ravages of COVID-19, and why workers needed to be cautious in their demands in order not to put undue pressure on the national kitty.
Mr Awuah said regardless of debilitating working conditions amidst the global complexities, public servants had proven equal to the task and justified increases in salaries and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) to ameliorate their plight.
He assured that the government was working hard to address the current challenges facing the economy and those related to improving the quality of life for all Ghanaians.
In that regard, he hinted at the government’s plan to pay an 18 per cent wage increase for public sector workers whereas labour demanded, more, and assured that government will continue to dialogue to ensure a harmonious labour front.
“I will be the first to admit that conditions of service in the wider public service needs improvement, however, these should be done within budgetary constraints to ensure that we do not put excessive pressure on our public finances,” he stated.
Mr Awuah appealed to CLOGSAG members to take advantage of globalization to gain access to jobs in the form of work that had been outsourced by wealthier nations to significantly contribute to the local economy.
Dr Stephen Nana Ato Arthur, Head of the Local Government Service, expressed gratitude to public service workers for their dedication towards work.
“I urge you to continue working with Government in promoting industrial peace and harmony to increase productivity.
“Any industrial action embarked on by public sector workers’ union adversely affects the economy. Your peaceful negotiations in the year 2022 calmed down tensions and led to increased work output and productivity for Mother Ghana,” he said.
Dr Evans Agbeme Dzikum, President of the Association called on the government to support CLOSAG members to venture into entrepreneurship to ease the financial stress and create jobs for the masses.
He said CLOSAG had moved from its noted accolade of strikes button to investment into productive ventures to better the lots of members.
He enumerated lots of success by the Association including the establishment of a welfare system, CLOG TV, improvement in CLOSAG hotel facilities, and a proposed ‘CLOSAG twist’offices, a 16-storey to be built in Accra for all the regions.