THE Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has asked for the full protection of all the youth employed under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) in accordance with the Labour Act 2003.
It added that the youth employed under the scheme should be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
In a document on the TUC’s views on the 2008 Budget Statement and Economic Policies, the government received commendation and caution, as well as admonition, for its economic policy.
While indicating its full support for the success of the NYEP, it asked the government to ensure that the youth employed under the programme would join the Social Security Scheme this year.
However, on the government’s proposed excise duty of one pesewa on a minute of mobile talk time to fund the NYEP, the union said that amounted to double taxation of the mobile phone user.
That was because the current regime of pay-as-you-go had an element of taxation, since the price of the scratch cards purchased in recharging was inclusive of VAT, it added.
“The government should have levied the proposed tax on the service providers so that consumers will bear the tax burden according to their demand elasticity,” the TUC said.
It pointed out that a tax on the companies would also encourage competition among them, as the more efficient ones would absorb all the taxes and find more competitive and less harmful ways of running their businesses.
On public sector wages, the TUC indicated that it was yet to receive the report on a job evaluation for a unified single spine salary structure under the ongoing public sector wage reform.
It said it was becoming increasingly evident that the unified single spine salary structure that was expected to be introduced this year would not be possible.
The implication of that, organised labour said, was that public sector wages would continue to be determined through collective bargaining between the various public sector unions and their employers.
It reminded the government of its assurance to give the necessary mandate to the various agencies in the public sector to negotiate with the unions and asked it to do so without delay.
Other areas that the TUC document dwelt on were social development policies, decentralisation, transportation, agriculture and food security.
It said despite the Capitation Grant and the School Feeding Programme that had increased enrolment in schools, there were still over 800,000 pupils out of school, while the lack of facilities, high pupil/teacher ratios and low morale among teachers were some of the shortcomings brought to the fore by the increased enrolment.
On the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the TUC pointed out that increase in health expenditure over the years had not translated into significant improvements in health delivery.
On decentralisation, it asked for “the invigoration of the decentralisation agenda” by making local authorities accountable to the people in the districts, not the President.
The TUC was pleased with the integrated transport policy announced in the 2008 budget statement but noted that it needed “a big push” to solve the transportation and traffic challenges in cities, since they impacted negatively on labour productivity.
Generally, the TUC commended the government for the prospects of the economy, based on an estimated GDP growth rate of 6.3 per cent in 2007, a year-on year inflation of 12.7 per cent as of December 2007, a stable exchange rate between the country’s currency and other major international currencies, and projected end-period inflation rate of between six and eight per cent for 2008.
It, however, noted that “fundamental challenges still remain”.
These, according to the TUC, included weak and unreliable economic and social infrastructure, as well as rising international crude prices.
Describing the country’s achievement in the area of macro-economic management as “remarkable”, it, however, said that had not translated into increased living standards for the majority of Ghanaians, with just a “tiny fraction of the population” gaining from the growth.
It asked the government to commit itself to its policies and programmes outlined in the 2008 budget to consolidate the gains made and accelerate growth and poverty reduction.
“We trust that the government will commit enough resources to the policies and programmes announced in the budget statement,” it said.
The TUC said it was satisfied with its engagement with the government on various social, economic and labour market policy issues and gave the assurance of its continuous co-operation in the spirit of social partnership and mutual respect, provided the government continued to keep the space for social dialogue.
DAILY GRAPHIC, THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2008