Prince William Ankrah
THE GHANA Mineworkers Union (GMWU), an umbrella body
of miners in Ghana’s mining industry, has launched the 75th Anniversary of its formation.
Speaking at the launch held in Accra last Friday, General Secretary of GMWU, Prince William Ankrah, said “the commemoration of our 75th Anniversary (Diamond Jubilee), which we are launching today, will be climaxed in August 2019.”
He recounted that on Wednesday, June 7th 1944, a history-making incident took place at Abosso near Tarkwa in the Western Region of the then Gold Coast, when two gallant men namely Brothers S.M. Bissah and C.E. McCarthy of blessed memory rose up against the exploitation of indigenous workers in the mining sector by colonial enterprise owners, which eventually bore the fruit of reality in the formation of the Gold Coast Mineworkers’ Union which is now known as Ghana Mineworkers’ Union – GMWU.
He said their move came about as a result of the refusal of the colonial management to respond to workers’ demands for improved conditions of work.
Two years after its formation, the Gold Coast Mineworkers’ Union, he said, was affiliated to the then Gold Coast Trades Union Congress (i.e. 1946) and eventually joined the Miners’ International Federation in 1952.
According to him, from its humble beginnings, the GMWU’s membership grew in leaps and bounds reaching a peak of around 45,000 in the late 1960s. These were the days of the State Gold Mining Corporation (SGMC) mines and the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation (AGC) mines.
However, despite the high economic potential of the mining sector, it was not spared the effects of the serious economic downturn Ghana experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading to the collapse of a number of the SGMC mines, he added.
The shift in focus on divestitures under the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in the 1990s, he explained, resulted in the influx of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by Multinational Corporations into the mining sector.
“Expectedly, most of these multinational corporations have exhibited corporate greed and a quest for hyper profit mindset without recourse to the ordinary mineworker whose toil and sweat create the wealth in the mining sector,” he stressed.
Despite these challenges, the GMWU with its strong leadership at both national and branch levels has survived to date.
He disclosed that the Union currently represents around 12,000 members drawn from 43 companies (11 operating mines and 32 service companies). The decline in membership is due mainly to employers’ adoption of precarious employment contract arrangements where permanent workers are declared redundant only to be re-engaged as short term fixed contract or causal workers by the same employers.
According to him, looking beyond the 75th Anniversary, the GMWU is standing at the crossroad, going through unprecedented challenges.
He added that, however, we are fully convinced that our fortitude, our joined hands, our unified efforts and our gaze into our common future, coupled with the memory and commitment of the likes of Bissah, McCarthy, Sam, Cleland, Foevie, Quarshie, Mamah, Williams, Cole, Owusu, Bimpong, Gyima, Asamoah-Gyekye and others would serve as an encouragement and motivation to continue the battle. We have survived these 74 years and we will continue to “have a seat at the table and never be on the menu”.
BY Melvin Tarlue