His call follows what he said were comments made by some union leaders after the Accra High Court had ordered the striking workers to resume work.
“It is regrettable that some union leaders who spoke to the press after the court’s order have sought to suggest that they will defy the court,” he said.
Comply with court’s order
At a press conference to address issues on the tier-two pension in Accra yesterday, Dr Boamah said it was the expectation of the government that workers would obey the court’s order and comply accordingly.
The government, he said, in exercising the right to go to court, was guided solely by the supreme interest of all Ghanaians “and the need to end the suffering we are going through as a result of this strike”.
He said productivity could not be enhanced if workers embarked on strikes regarding the Tier-Two Pension Scheme “even when no pensioner would be deprived of his or her benefit come January 2015”.
Strike costing Ghanaians
The strike, he said, had had a huge toll on Ghanaians and these included the children of workers in public schools who had been denied tuition over the period.
Ghanaians in need of medical care have also been turned away by public health facilities, putting their lives at risk.
The government, he said, deemed it unacceptable that Ghanaians should suffer the deprivation of vital public services on account of the current strike action.
“The suffering associated with this strike remains unconscionable and unmeritorious because as I speak here and now, no worker has been denied his/her benefits under the tier-two scheme. The tier-two scheme is a defined contribution arrangement which guarantees benefits for all eligible workers, including the first batch of workers going on pension from January 2015,” he explained.
Distortion of facts
Addressing what he described as distortions on the part of the striking unions, he said one of the deceptive narratives which was being repeated was that the government, in violation of the provisions of the Pensions Act, Act 766, had unilaterally imposed a trustee on public sector workers.
“It is instructive to note, however, that those who advance this argument often fall short of stating the relevant provisions which government has violated,” Dr Boamah said.
The government, he said, believes not only in the rule of law, but also in the fact that the demand by labour unions to choose trustees for the tier-two pension contributions would leave the future of workers, especially when they retire, almost entirely at the mercy of private interests.
Private interest dangerous
According to him, these private interests could not provide the same guarantee for the welfare of the citizens that the government provided.
He said workers were adequately represented on the boards of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) by highly respected trade unionists and, therefore, had the opportunity to regularly learn about the status of their pension funds.
“The notion, therefore, that the government has concealed the details of the funds accrued so far is misleading,” he stated.
Another falsehood being peddled, he said, was that the government had handed over pension funds being kept at the Bank of Ghana to Pension Alliance Trust to purchase the defunct Merchant Bank, describing that claim as false, unfounded, mischievous and invented to justify earlier falsehoods.
Pension fund being invested prudently
“The funds that have accrued so far are being safely kept by the Bank of Ghana and have been prudently invested for the benefit of pensioners,” he assured.
The protection of citizens when they were old and vulnerable, he said, was the bottom line in all pension matters and that responsibility rested with the government, hence the need for the government to take keen interest in the management of funds set aside for that purpose.
“We believe in the power of the state in protecting pensioners. We believe the private sector has a role to play in this endeavour, but we are also guided by bitter case studies in Ghana and across the globe. When bankruptcy sets in, who will bail the poor pensioner out? Who will protect the retirement income security of the pensioner? This is the thrust of government’s actions. Let us all get to work even as we negotiate, for the two are not mutually exclusive and exhaustive,” he added.
In a related development, striking labour unions have said they were in talks with their lawyers and will take a decision on their next line of action today, reports Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho.
According to them, the court action taken by the government to compel them to go back to work will not help in solving the labour dispute.
The President of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr Opoku Adusei, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said, “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”.
He said the GMA, as an entity, was not surprised at the government’s action since it had gone through a similar situation before.
He said the government’s refusal to resolve the issue of who manages the second-tier pension fund amicably and its decision to go to court to place an injunction on their fight for their rights “shows the type of employer that the government is”.
He said government, as an employer, instead of seeking the interest of its citizenry, was rather using its powers to restrain them from exercising their rights by sending them to court.
Dr Adusei said what the government was doing had not answered the burning questions that labour had been asking.
He said various spokespersons for the government had not been consistent with information on where the money was, how it had been invested and what interest had so far accrued on it?
The GMA President said so far, labour unions had received conflicting reports on the status of the monies that had been deducted as their tier-two funds.
He said the only thing that the striking labour unions could do was to accept their fate and plan for their own future as the government did not care.
He said if it happened that they had to go back to work, they would not exhibit any lackadaisical attitude but would perform their duties according to the laws and provisions guiding their various professions.
Twelve labour unions on October 22, 2014 embarked on a nationwide strike to demand from the government to allow them to manage the tier-two pension scheme.
The unions are the Health Service Workers Union (HSWU), the Ghana Registered Nurses’ Association (GRNA), the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Ghana Physician Assistants’ Association (GPAA), the Ghana Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA) and the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anaesthetists (GRCRA).
Others are the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT).
The rest are the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) and the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOGSAG).