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Workers strike ’morrow

Nov. 14, 2016, 9:43 a.m.

-Over govt refusal to release pension funds

-Public Schools, hospitals, MDAs risk shutdown

By Elvis DARKO, Accra

PUBLIC schools, hospitals and government machinery face total shutdown tomorrow unless government acts swiftly today to avert a pending strike by 12 labour unions.

Member unions of the Forum for Public Sector Registered Pension Schemes say if their tier-two pension contribution of 5% for the month of October is not credited to their accounts by close of work today, they will embark on an indefinite strike from tomorrow.

The General Secretary of Health Services Workers Union (HSWU), a member of the Forum Mr Reynold Tenkorang, told The Finder that by law, the 5% tier-two pension contribution for the previous month is to be paid by 14 days of the following month.

Bankers notification

Therefore, he said, they expect to receive notification from their bankers by close of work today indicating that their 5% tier-two pension contribution has been credited to their accounts by the Controller and Accountant General.

October 5% must hit their accounts today

He stated that aside the October contribution hitting their accounts today, the Forum also expects government to transfer all the monies that have accumulated in a temporary account at Bank of Ghana (BoG) into their accounts immediately.

Forum registered 3 pension schemes

According to him, the Forum has registered three pension schemes for Civil and Local Government Staff Association (CLOGSAG), Health Sector and Education sector.

Mr Tenkorang stated that the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) has issued the three schemes fresh licenses to operate. 

15-member board of trustees

The schemes, he said, are managed by a 15-member board of trustees, comprising nine members representing workers, five government representatives and one independent member with knowledge in the management of pensions, as required by law.

Under the new pension law, the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) gets 13.5% of contributor’s contributions, 5% goes to the second-tier operators to be managed by corporate trustees on behalf of contributors — employees of public and private institutions.

Law took effect since 2010 

Although the law was passed in 2008, it took effect in 2010, within which it mandated employers to deduct 5% of their employees' monthly salaries and pay them into a Temporary Pensions Fund Account (TPFA) at BoG. 

The account was to absorb the contributions while the NPRA, which is the regulator of the pension industry, put up the right regulatory framework, licensed the trustees and registered them for actual work to start.

Mr Tenkorang said NPRA called them to say the Ministry of Finance has promised to instruct the Controller and Accountant General to credit their accounts with the money.

Strike tomorrow  if…

However, he insisted that they would declare an indefinite strike if the money is not credited to their accounts by close of work today.

He stated that the Forum would no longer entertain any promise from government officials because, in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that made the Forum to call off its earlier strike, government promised to transfer the accumulated amount in Temporary Pensions Fund Account (TPFA) at BoG into the accounts of the three schemes registered by workers in April, this year.

In addition, government at the time promised to start crediting their accounts with their monthly deductions by July, this year.

He was peeved that government has failed to deliver on both promises necessitating tomorrow’s pending strike action.

Mr Tenkorang stated that government has to pay 3% penalty on the accumulated amount at BoG.

5% to be invested not below T-Bills rate

In addition, government will have to breakdown the figure to show how much was invested during the period and how much interest accrued from the investment.

This, he said, was crucial because, the law states that the money should be invested to yield interest rates not less than Treasury Bill rates.

With the promulgation of the National Pensions (Amendment) Act, 2014 (Act 883), the government postponed the implementation of the 2nd-Tier Occupational Pension Scheme for five years and that cut out those who were 55 years as at January 1, 2015.

The fact still remains that for those who fall under the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), cumulative contributions from January 1, 2010, have not been transferred to the custodian banks of licensed schemes of the Forum.

Adverse effect on pensioners

Mr Tenkorang said the delay in the transfer of the funds to the various schemes is going to adversely affect the level of lump sum or gratuity a retired officer is likely to receive in the 2nd-Tier.

Case for strike

Making a case for the strike, he said many Ghanaians were aware of the debilitating conditions that pensioners found themselves after having diligently served the nation for many years.

“We all know the extent of control the government of Ghana wields power over the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and how the government has contributed, over the years, to the inefficiencies and mismanagement of SSNIT through political interference.

“It is because of these scary conditions at retirement that pushed workers to agitate for pension reforms and which were wholeheartedly embraced by the government of the day. To the architects of the three-tier pension scheme, it was crafted to insulate excessive governmental interference and to engender peer competitions among the existing schemes so as to promote efficiency,” he said. 

Members of the Forum

The Forum is made up of the Health Services Workers Union (HSWU), the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA), the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) and the Ghana Pharmacists Association (GPA).

The others are: the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anesthetists (GACRA), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT).

2014 issues 

About 12 labour unions on October 22, 2014 embarked on an indefinite strike in protest against the government's decision not to allow them to manage their tier-two pension funds.

Appointment of Pension Alliance Trust

The government claims the workers had agreed that Pension Alliance Trust would manage the funds.

But the workers described as complete falsehood claims by the Minister of Communications that workers had a hand in the appointment of Alliance Trust to manage the tier-two scheme of public sector workers.

As the issues dragged on, the government went to court to obtain an ex-parte order on the Forum. 

The court directed the leadership of the unions to ensure an immediate end to the indefinite strike and return to work with their respective members which they obliged.

Government and workers opted for out of court settlement resulting in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to resolve the issues at stake.

Now the 12 unions have threatened strike again because government failed to implement the MoU.