Trade Unions

This page was last updated on: 2021-03-24

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

The Constitution provides for freedom of association to the citizens for the protection of their interests.

Labour Act defines a trade union as any association of workers, the principal purposes of which are to promote and protect their economic and social interests. Labour Act allows the workers and employers to establish and join unions. Moreover workers are allowed to participate in union activities outside working hours.

Two or more workers employed in the same undertaking may form a union, and two or more employers (each employing at least 15 workers) in the same industry or trade may form or join an employers’ organization. The trade union has the right to draw up its constitution and rules, elect its officers and representatives. Unions organize their administration and activities and formulate their own programmes. They can affiliate to and participate in the activities of international workers’ organisations. These unions can take part in the formulation, and become a member of any federation of trade unions or employers’ organization and participate in its lawful activities.

A trade union has to apply in writing to the Chief Labour Officer for getting registered. The application for registration includes the constitution, rules, name of officers and office address of the trade union. When the Chief Labour Officer is satisfied with the process, he/she issues a certificate to the trade union.

The rules or constitution of a trade union includes the name of the organisation; the registered office to which correspondence notice may be addressed; the principal objectives of the trade union; the qualifications for membership; the grounds on which an officer or a member may be suspended or dismissed from office or membership; the procedure for suspension or dismissal of an officer or a member; the membership fees and other subscription payable; the manner of dissolution of the trade union and disposal of its assets; the manner of altering, amending or revoking its constitution or rules; and the power, function and duties of officers of the trade union.A trade union or employers' organization is prohibited to discriminate in its constitution or rules against any person on grounds of race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed, gender or disability.

Sources: §21(e) and 24 of the Constitution of Ghana 1992; §79-95 & 131 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651)

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

The Labour Act allows for collective bargaining in all enterprises. A collective agreement relates to the terms and conditions of employment of workers. It may be concluded between one or more trade unions on one hand and representatives of one or more employers or employers’ organizations on the other hand.

Collective bargaining takes place in good faith between the parties. The representatives of the employees may include the provisions related to the class or category of workers to which it relates; the conditions of work (including the hours of work, rest period, meal breaks, annual leave, occupational health and safety measures); the remuneration and its calculation, the period of probation and its conditions; the notice period of termination of employment, transfer and discipline; the procedures for the avoidance and settlement of disputes arising out of the interpretation, application and administration of the agreement; and the principle of matching remuneration with productivity.

A trade union which wants to obtain a collective bargaining certificate is required to make an application to the Chief Labour Officer for a certificate appointing that trade union as the representative to conduct negotiations on behalf of the class of workers specified in the collective bargaining certificate with the employers of the workers. The application should contain the description of the class of workers and the estimated number of workers of that class who are members of that trade union.

A collective bargaining certificate is issued to a union for the same class of workers at a particular time. The Chief Labour Officer determines which union may hold the collective bargaining certificate. The Officer may, after consultation with the trade union, amend the certificate to cover other class(s) of workers.

The withdrawal of a certificate appointing a trade union does not affect the validity of a collective agreement made by the trade union before certificate was withdrawn. But any collective agreement which is made by another trade union after withdrawal of the certificate has effect notwithstanding anything in the previous agreement.

After the negotiation the trade union communicates the terms of the concluded collective agreement to the notice of all the concerned workers. The concluded agreement between the parties is written and signed by a duly authorised member of the committee representing each party. Two copies of the agreement are deposited with the Labour Commission and the Chief Labour Officer.

Collective bargaining agreements are issued for a term of at least one year, and they must contain a provision for a final and conclusive settlement of any disputes between parties to whom the agreement applies, using the provision of the Labour Act for such settlement. If a notice is not given by either party within thirty days after the expiration of the collective agreement (in order to start negotiations), the collective agreement is deemed to have continued in force until rescinded by the parties. Collection of union dues is also permitted by the law.

The Labour Act provides for a National Tripartite Committee composed of equal number of representatives from worker, employer and government groups. It is headed by the Minister who acts as the chairperson of the committee. This Committee determines the national daily minimum wage; advise on employment and labour market issues, including labour laws, international labour standards, industrial relations and occupational safety and health; consult with partners in the labour market on matters of social and economic importance; and perform such other functions as the Minister may request for the promotion of employment development and peace in the labour sector.

The National Tripartite Committee may set up its sub-committees such Regions and Districts as it considers necessary for the effective performance of its functions and the Ministry should provide a sub-committee with such secretarial services as the sub-committee may require.

Sources: §96-115 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651)

Right to Strike

Right to strike is recognized by law however this right is strictly regulated. Strike means any action by two or more workers acting in concert which is intended by them to restrict in any way the service they normally provide to the employer or diminish the output of such service with a view to applying coercive pressure upon the employer and includes sympathy strike and those activities commonly called a work-to-rule, a go slow or a sit down strike.

If the parties fail to agree to refer a dispute for voluntary arbitration or a dispute remains unresolved at the end of the arbitration proceedings, either party intending to take a strike action or lockout, gives written notice of the intended action to the other party. The Commission may, within seven (7) working days after the failure of the parties to agree to refer the dispute to another arbitration, terminate the arbitration proceedings. Strike may be undertaken only after the expiry of these seven days and not during the period when negotiation, mediation or arbitration proceedings are in progress.

Strikes are prohibited for the workers engaged in essential services.. These include water supply services; electricity generation, transmission and distribution services; health and hospital services; sanitary services; air traffic control; meteorological services; fire services; air transport services; supply and distribution of fuel, petrol, power and light; telecommunication services; public transport services; ports and harbor services; and the Bank of Ghana.

A strike or lockout is legal if it is in sympathy with or in support of a strike action taken by another worker or group of workers against their employer on account of an industrial dispute with the employer. Labour Act declares no work and no pay for illegal strikers for the period of illegal strike, and also permits termination.

An employer may not employ any person to perform the work of a worker participating in a lawful strike unless the work is necessary to secure essential minimum maintenance services at the enterprise.

A worker has the right to refuse to do any work normally performed by the worker who is participating in a lawful strike except that the worker cannot refuse to perform the work if it is necessary to secure minimum maintenance services.

The Labour Act protects against the hiring of replacement labour during a lawful strike, unless for minimum maintenance services at the undertaking. The Commission is authorized to hear disputes over what work amounts to minimum maintenance services. Peaceful picketing is also allowed during legal strike.

Sources: § 159, 168-175 of the Labour Act 2003(Act 651); Regulation 37-41 of the National Labour Commission Regulations 2006 (LI 1822); Regulation 20 of Labour Regulations 2007 (LI 1833)

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • Labour Act, 2003