Kwame Nkrumah, friend of TUC
Statement issued by the
Ghana Traders Union Congress
on the occasion of Nkrumah’s centenary
On this historic occasion of the Centenary Anniversary of the great Ghanaian and African revolutionary patriot, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghana Traders Union Congress (TUC) joins the good people of Ghana and all Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora to celebrate the life, struggles and works of this great Pan-Africanist. There is no doubt that Kwame Nkrumah was and continues to be a towering giant of the struggles of the people of African who has been deservedly acclaimed the greatest African of the 20th Century ahead of equally illustrious sons and daughters of Africa and named among the first one hundred persons who have had the most significant influence on mankind in the last one thousand years. It is in this sense that the statement ‘Nkrumah never dies!’ remains as true today as it was in the past.
Kwame Nkrumah was a complex personality, a man of many sides, a man of the people, the undisputed leader of anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the leading protagonist of African Unity and Pan Africanism in the 20th Century, the historic architect of modern Ghana, a political strategist and tactician per excellence, a philosopher, a great teacher, a man of the arts and culture, an indefatigable worker, and many more attributes. We are sure that throughout these celebrations we shall have occasion to hear better qualified experts speak to these diverse sides of Kwame Nkrumah. For us in the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Ghanaian working class movement, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah will always be remembered for his abiding faith in, and commitment to, the working people of Ghana. In this sense Kwame Nkrumah was not a leader of the big powerful but the leader of the common people, the working man and woman. No doubt his followers were denigrated as the ‘verandah boys’, only for this past-master and politician to turn the insult into an instrument of mass appeal and mobilization.
Nkrumah made politics a matter for working people, in a manner that no leader before him or after did. He saw the great potential of working people as an unstoppable force of change and made the workers movement the historic foundation of the anti-colonial movement. As a result many of the great leaders of the trade union movement of the fifties and early sixties were comrades in arms of Kwame Nkrumah and the CPP. Many of then such as Pobey Biney, Anthony Wood, F.E. Techie-Menson, Turkson Ocran etc. and in the latter days John Tettegah were part of the high were part of the high council of the CPP. Our present edifice, the Hall of Trade Unions was a gift bequeathed to the union movement by Nkrumah CPP government in July, 1960, together with the Labour College. From working class viewpoint, it is a damning comment on our rulers following the dastardly coup of 24th February 1966 that no government since then has contributed in any way to expanding the these assets of the workers movement.
Kwame Nkrumah saw in the workers movement the key transformatory force of our society and invested heavily in it by pursuing a vigorous policy of industrialization, job creation and education of the working people. His hitherto unmatched Seven Year Development Plan and the corresponding Work and Happiness Programme were hinged on the workers movement and education and science as the transformative force. It gave working people a real stake in national development. Alas the foes of Africa’s independent and self-reproducing development brought this great vision and project to an end in February 1966.
The Seven Year Development Plan, the most audacious and comprehensive development plan that Ghana has seen over the last fifty odd years of independence knows no equal. It sought to transform Ghana from a country of shopkeepers and consumers into a showpiece of modern industrialized economy in Africa, a period where there would be full employment and the challenge of even shortage of labour force and the need for its importation from neighbouring African countries. This is in contrast today where mass unemployment and underemployment and rampant redundancies are the order of the day. His State Farms was influenced not only by the concern for employment but the introduction of modern scientific large scale farming. This was to provide the necessary food for the country and agricultural raw material for agro-processing industry. His Workers Brigade Programme was equally motivated by a commitment to create employment for working people.
The Centenary Celebrations of Nkrumah’s birth is necessary not only because of the need to pay tribute to this unparallel leader of the people of Africa, but so that we can reflect of the singular experiences of that period, both the great successes and the failures. For Kwame Nkrumah, being a mortal, notwithstanding his phenomenal and transformatory leadership made mistakes. The mistakes however, were mistakes of his epoch. What we need to do as a people is to learn from this experiences, build upon the undoubtedly positive balance sheet left for us as a nation and continent and avoid the painful errors of the time.
For Ghana TUC the greater tribute Ghana can pay Kwame Nkrumah on this Centenary Anniversary is to take seriously the implementation of his bold visionary programme of transformation and development within the context of the circumstances today.
The TUC salutes the memory of Osagyefo, the most outstanding African of the past millennium. We salute his monumental achievements not only in laying the foundation for the unity of modern Ghana but equally important his untiring efforts towards forging the unity of Africa and peoples of African descent.
The Ghana TUC is forever indebted to Kwame Nkrumah for his personal contributions toward the development of trade unionism in Ghana and the struggle of workers of Ghana for social and economic justice. Most historical accounts of the Nkrumah era have described it as perhaps the best times for trade unions in Ghana. The TUC had played a pivotal role in the struggle for independence. It played a decisive role in the thirteen-day strike that followed the declaration of ‘positive action’ on January 8, 1950 by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. At Independence, therefore, the TUC was considered to be an arm of government of the First Republic because of the special relationship it shared with the ruling government.
Industrial Relations under Nkrumah
This “Siamese time” relationship between the TUC and the CPP Government, which developed during the struggle for independence, changed in the most radical way, the industrial relations landscape and positively affected conditions of work in Ghana. Soon after independence (1957), Ghana joined the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as part of government’s effort to guarantee recognition, respect for and protection of the rights of workers.
The CPP government of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah further demonstrated its commitment to the welfare of working people and their organizations (trade unions) by the number of ILO Conventions that were ratified in the first republic. Ghana ratified all the ten ILO conventions that were being applied by the colonial authorities. Out of the forty-seven ILO conventions that have been ratified by Ghana, thirty-four (representing 72 per cent) were ratified during the period between 1957 and 1966 which coincide with the rein of Osagyefo.
Among the Conventions ratified by the CPP Government to ensure the welfare of workers are Convention 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949; Convention 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights of Organise, 1948), Convention 26 (Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention, 1926), Underground Work (/women) 1935, Night Work (Women), 1948, Equal Remuneration, 1951 Contracts of Employment (indigenous Workers), 1939, Medical Examination of Young Persons (Sea), 1921, Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation), 1925, Forced Labour, 1930, Recruiting of Indigenous Workers, 1936, Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers), 1939, Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers), 1939, Labour Inspection, 1947, Night Work Young Persons (industry), 1948 and many others.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his government went beyond the ratification of these conventions to ensure that workers actually enjoy the benefits of the conventions. The ratified conventions were supported by the necessary national legislation in the rights to organise and collective bargaining in Ghana. Among the laws enacted to promote and protect the rights of workers in Ghana was the Industrial Relations Act of 1958. This Act established the TUC itself and made provisions for collective bargaining, conciliation and arbitration.
It is an undeniable fact, as supported by the above analyses that the CPP government of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah laid a solid foundation for peaceful industrial relations in Ghana. Some commentators have argued that, the TUC-CPP Government relationship was tantamount to willfully relinquishing union power to government (Damachi, 1974, p.15). What the critics fail to appreciate is that the recognition of workers’ rights, the ratification of relevant ILO Conventions supported by national legislation and the resultant strength of unions were the fruits of the “convenient marriage” between the TUC and the CPP Government.
In the view of the TUC, it was a matter of choice between being antagonistic to government and working in poor conditions, on one hand and trading-off some union power for government support for protection of workers’ right. After all, what is the essence of union power if it does not translate into better working and living conditions for workers and their families? Indeed, the industrial relations atmosphere before and after independence, made the marriage of convenience inevitable when we consider the fact that government was the predominant employer and had tremendous influence on working conditions in the private sector “since the terms of employment of offered by government were conventionally taken by private employers as a standard guideline” (Damachi, ibid).
The TUC would like to underscore the fact that, its relationship with and support for Nkrumah and the CPP government was as principled as it was convenient. The ‘development state’ ideology promoted by Nkrumah and the CPP was very much in keeping with the thinking of not only the Ghana Trades Union Congress but also the international trade union movement.
Throughout its history, the TUC has promoted the idea that in a developing country like Ghana which faces many development challenges such as high illiteracy rate, high unemployment rate, poor health and nutritional status, low life expectancy and infrastructural bottlenecks in all spheres of life, the state has a crucial role to play in lifting the economy out of under-development. Our view has always been that, while the private sector has a role to play in national development, at the current level of development where the private sector itself is constrained in many ways, an activist state is needed to generate the national momentum for growth and development.
The TUC and its affiliate national unions do not believe that the state must abdicate its role in economic management to the unaccountable and invisible forces of demand and supply. The developmental challenges we face as a nation require a strong, active and purposeful state and not reliance on the devices of free markets. This view of development happened to have coincided with the views of Nkrumah and the CPP government he led from 1957 to 1966 hence our support for his government.
As we celebrate the 100th birthday of Nkrumah, the TUC urges sober reflection not only on his life but equally importantly his views on national development. Let us use this memorable occasion to re-examine issues of development policy-making in Ghana in the context of the current state of affairs.
The TUC salute the memory of Nkrumah and all the things he stood for: Lets not let Nkrumah ever die!
GHANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS, (TUC)
DATED: SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
Ghanaian Times - page: 15 Saturday, September 26, 2009