Ghana Labour Unions Call For Strike Over Local Debt Swap

Ghana’s main unions on Monday called for a nationwide strike from next week in protest against the inclusion of workers’ pensions in a local debt swap programme as part of the terms for an IMF credit.

A top cocoa and gold producer, Ghana has oil and gas reserves but its debt payments are high and its revenues weak. 

Like the rest of Africa, it has been hit by economic fallout from the global pandemic and the Ukraine war. 

Two weeks ago, the west African nation offered investors a domestic debt swap to ease a crunch in payments. 

But labour unions refuse to have pension funds included in the exchange.

The unions met in the capital Accra on Monday and told reporters they had called a strike to compel the government to heed their demand.

“We have decided firmly that because the government has refused to grant us our request that all pension funds must be exempted from the domestic debt exchange programme, all workers of Ghana are going to strike on 27 December 2022,” said Yaw Baah, secretary general of Trades Union Congress.

“We will be on strike until our demand has been granted,” he said.

Baah called on workers to stay at home.

“We will stay at home until the government acts. That is straight forward and very simple,” he said. 

“We won’t sit down for the vulnerable people to suffer because somebody has made mistakes.”

Labour unions present at the press conference included the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Ghana Medical Association, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association and the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU).

The government has so far not responded to the strike threat.

The West African state is facing an economic crisis, with inflation at more than 50 percent and its cedi currency down sharply, hit by the adverse effects of the global pandemic and Ukraine conflict. 

The crisis forced President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government to reverse its position earlier this year and seek International Monetary Fund help as economists warned of a default on debt payments.

Ghana and the IMF have agreed on a three-billion-dollar credit, but the fund’s board has yet to approve the deal.

Ghana on Monday announced it was suspending payments on part of its foreign debts.