In early April this year, I was driving from the High Court when my mobile phone rang: “Captain, this is Office of the Chief of Staff. The swearing in of members of the National Labour Commission takes place tomorrow at Jubilee House….”
National Labour Commission?
What I did not know was that Almighty God was taking me through another entirely new environment. Already, I am comfortably at home in the military, petroleum, local governance, arts, journalism, law, and now….by the Grace of God…labour front!
At an orientation seminar for us the new members of the National Labour Commission, Austin Gamey, labour expert, told us that we have power to summon everybody, apart from the President and his Vice, to appear before us. He told us that if we do our work very well, there will be peace at the labor front.
Peace at the labour front?
According to the “Legon Observer” in the year 1978, prior to the takeover of the Supreme Military Council, there was so much chaos at the labour front that there were as many as 80 strikes in Ghana!
By contrast, because of good governance, throughout the first four years of President J A Kufour’s NPP Administration, not ONE strike was recorded throughout Ghana!!
The basic universal principle across all ages is that when you suppress expression of complaints, and you don’t put in place a mechanism for addressing grievances, then explosion is inevitable.
According to history, a famous slave revolt led by TAKYI from Gold Coast, took place in Jamaica and he was arrested and brutally decapitated in public.
In Ghana, we have seen strikes by all sectors of workers – teachers, doctors, lawyers, mine workers, taxi drivers, – everybody ………… – strike, when the ‘powers that be’ do not respond to change.
Ghanaians will recall that the Monday 4th June 1979 revolution broke out at the peak of a famous crippling nationwide strike by nurses. In one of his very first radio broadcasts as Head of State, the young revolutionary leader, Flt Lt JJ Rawlings said on air: “we appeal to the nurses to call off their strike and go back to work – we need them”. That ended the nurses’ strike.
Addressing a press conference the other day, the President of Association of Judges and Magistrates, Mr Justice Victor Ofoe, Justice of Appeal Court, cried out that “strike” is creeping into the vocabulary of Judges!
That, with respect, is most sad and unfortunate.
All over the world, throughout all ages, society is held in balance by only one institution – the JUDICIARY. The Executive decides what should be the Law, Parliament Makes the Law, and the JUDICIARY says what the law is in practice or to be precise, interprets the law. Show me a WEAK judiciary and I will show you a failed state; nation in civil war.
Our Judges hold us together. They are the last refuge for the aggrieved.
But, what we seem to forget is that Judges are not angels from Heaven or saints, they are ordinary human beings like you and I – they are parents, they have wives and husbands, they have children, cousins and siblings, they have to pay school fees and attend funerals. The other day I had a good laugh when a High Court Judge told me in her chambers that her mother was dead and the whole family was looking up to her to buy the coffin!
And so we must take care of them. If we don’t want Anas to do any “Anas” on them, then we have a real responsibility to make sure that their needs are met, so as to insulate them against corrupt practices.
According to Justice Ofoe, their salaries, whatever levels they were, in 2014, have not since been revised all these years and there are arrears to be paid as well, so they are serving notice that if their concerns were not addressed, then, they will revisit the meaning of the word “strike” in their vocabulary, and that, reader……prepare for CHAOS.
I have said it several times again and again ad nauseam that the ONLY WAY for our nation to prosper is to do ONLY ONE THING – and that is to strengthen LAW AND ORDER.
Let us make the law so strong that from His Excellency the President to the Cleaner on the streets – everybody will FEAR the law.
While wishing and praying that Government will, as a certificate of urgency, deal with the grievances of Judges and Magistrates to avert an industrial action, I will put the blame of Government inaction at the doorstep of the JUDICIARY!
They always seem to agree with whatever the Attorney General and his team of lawyers say in court, trying to avoid being in the bad books of the Government. The result is that Government officials feel that they are above the law – they will always win, and so if JUSAG or nurses or doctors go on strike, they (the Judges) will declare it as illegal…..now you see that all is not well in ‘Christendom?’
By the way, are my lords aware that as an essential service, they must pass their industrial dispute through the National Labour Commission before they can legitimately go on strike?
They will come and meet us there, seated, to decide, whether they have a case! Holala! I look forward to that day!
By Nkrabeah Effah Dartey