Have you ever wondered why a company will go for contract workers or outsourced staff instead of directly employing the same competent workers from an available pool?
This is primarily done to cheat workers and the system—to enable employers escape many of the existing legal liabilities of taking on a worker and still be able to benefit wholesomely from the person’s work.
The contract or agency staff conundrum is not just associated with Ghana, it’s a global issue—a product of our existing laissez faire market.
Though employment is a form of contract (exchange of skills or services for remuneration) between employees and employers, the huge disparity in the bargaining force leaves the individual in desperate need of work with little or no power to make demands.
This has given rise to a widespread global system where employers are doing everything possible under the sun to pay as little as possible to workers while demanding maximum, sometimes unrealistic output from these same workers.
In countries like the United Kingdom, the existence of a strict minimum wage scheme together with the fact that certain basic workers’ rights cannot be undermined, even if the worker is an agency staff or contract worker help lessen the unfair treatment workers suffer in the hands of employers.
On 1st October 2011 UK’s Government introduced the Agency Workers Regulations which gives ‘agency workers’ the right to equal treatment (with permanent staff working at the same organisation).
Back home in Ghana where the culture of legal rights or entitlements is fairly new—with no enforcement agencies to ensure adherence even if these rights exist has pushed workers into the den of exploitative employers, mostly multi-national companies headed by over-paid expats who continue to take the piss out of ordinary Ghanaian workers.
Sometimes, the expats are even willing to pay a deserving wage to workers due to their foreign background but a fellow Ghanaian at the top will scheme to ensure that, the amount proposed is divided in ten—claiming, this is what is done here in Ghana.
While it’s undisputed in the UK that after 12 weeks in a job as a contract worker or agency staff, you qualify for the same rights as someone employed directly, Ghanaian employers totally treat agency staff different from permanent staff—and it seems the law allows that.
After 12 weeks of employment as a contract staff in the UK, the ‘temporal’ worker begins to enjoy ‘equal treatment’ same as a directly employed worker. These rights include: ‘equal pay’ – the same pay as a permanent colleague doing the same job receives, automatic pension enrolment, paid annual leave and others.
In Ghana, almost all the banks, telecommunication companies and several other multinational companies heavily rely on recruitment agencies to outsource their staff—just to avoid taking up employment responsibilities and also to be able to treat the few workers they directly employ so special and treat the bunch of contract workers doing the real job with no deserving employment respect.
It’s not just unfair but also unconscionable to treat two people doing the same job (qualified to do it) differently when it comes to pay and other basic rights. This is why a civilised country like United Kingdom has for many years threw away the medieval sort of exploitation being currently meted out to agency workers in Ghana—to embrace a more reasonable and fair system where all workers are treated equal after 12 weeks of work.
According to Ghana’s Labour Act 2003, employees are entitled to appointment letters and contracts of employment but I know several individuals who do not have this basic paper—with their constant request having been ignored by management. That’s how bad thing are…
The employment market in Ghana is cruel—I call it contemporary slavery with a little bit of travel remuneration to aid your return to the plantation farm each day to work.
I couldn’t believe it when someone said she worked for UniCredit as a contract worker for almost 8 years—that’s 8 years of exploitation and abuse.
Without any reasonable justification, several contract workers in Ghana are paid in the margin of 500-800 GHS a month, doing the same job with permanent staff receiving about 3 times this amount.
The only reason why this happens is that the Ghanaian system allows it and none of the big political talkers seem to care about the sort of ill treatment hardworking Ghanaians, mostly young graduates are going through in the hands of these profit driven companies.
Companies want to maximum profit and given the space to freely do whatever as in the case of Ghana, they will continue to exploit the work force so the upper echelon will smile in their big bucks.
Not long ago, this was the case in United Kingdom too, but the government stepped in to accord ordinary workers with non-derogable employment rights.
Earlier in 2016, GhanaCelebrities.Com broke the news that a female staff outsourced from Reliance and working for telecommunication giant-Tigo’s labor rights in relations to maternity is being trampled on following a tip-off from a whistle blower.
The agency had instituted a policy affecting all its Tigo workers, saying, “effective January 2016, an employee who wishes to go on maternity leave will have to apply for a break (leave without pay) and reapply for their position after the maternity break.”
The letter sent out to the workers added; “Also note that, contract duration is for six (6) months and renewable upon availability of the job and performance.”
The publication somewhat caused a social media chaos—and fetched swift response from Tigo-Ghana management, including the CEO-Roshi Motman, who promised to quickly fix the apparent illegality.
Within 24 hours, Tigo-Ghana as acted and has issued a statement to condemn the policy—as well as having instituted a quick fix.
The policy is unfair and does not meet the standards of our commitment to diversity and inclusion especially at a time when the world is calling for gender parity to bridge the gender gap. As a company that has deep respect for transparency, diversity and equal opportunities, we will not tolerate any breaches in respect to our Suppliers Code of Conduct and or / higher standards.
After our discussions with Reliance we have taken immediate action and the only affected employee has been contacted. Going forward Reliance will do the following:
Pay all female staff on maternity leave their full salary.
Ensure that all employees return to their jobs after the 3 months maternity leave.
Allow for shorter working days for nursing mothers at their return to work.
The truth is, while this may seem satisfying to many, especially the individual who contacted GhanaCelebrities.Com with the story, the Ghanaian labor related problems go deeper than this. And only a government can establish the needed decency.
Sadly, most of those in charge of these companies or agencies perpetuating this unfairness and taking a piss out of a desperate population of workers go to church every Sunday—and seems to be at peace with themselves.
Posterity will judge us all, I guess!