There is currently confusion at the Tarkwa Mine of Goldfields, as some workers have been injured due tear Gas, pepper spray and indiscriminate firing by the military and the police, all aimed at dispersing a peaceful demonstration embarked by the workers of the mine.
The use of tear gas and firing of guns led to the workers running for their life’s leading to one of them being hit as they were chased by the heavy military men sent to guard the mine by Goldfields management and Municipal Chief Executive of the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality.
Information available to B&FT is that, the workers this morning embarked on a sit-down strike, as a form of protest to demand that, the management of the mine led by Alfred Baku, sits with the Ghana Mine Workers Union’s (GMWU) leadership to find a solution to the feud over an impending redundancy exercise.
The workers who had their union leadership led by the Deputy General-Secretary of the GMWU in a video, seen by the B&FT, were asked to be peaceful and remain at the gates of the mine, which was complied to by workers who were in red armed bands.
But sources say, the peaceful demonstration (Sit-down) by the workers turned bloody, after the Municipal Chief Executive of the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality Gilbert Kennedy Asmah visited the scene of the protest (Forecourt of Tarkwa Goldfields), wanting to talk to the workers but they refused to listen to him.
Barely, 30mins after the MCE departed from the forecourts of Tarkwa Goldfields, reinforcement made up of both Military and Police came in, throwing tear gas into the peaceful demonstrators amidst firing of gunshots to dismiss them.
We understand, this action has brought work to a standstill at the mine and the action of the servicemen led to one of the workers whose name is being withheld hit by a bullet and had to be rushed to the nearest hospital by the union leadership who have assured that the injured person is responding to treatment.
Others also were said to have sustained injuries and had blood all over them as a result of the military men applying force to disperse the workers demonstrating peacefully.
The military and the police also went ahead and arrested some of the demonstrators during the scuffle.
Meanwhile, efforts to reach Goldfields Ghana Limited for a reaction has been unsuccessful as the company after the announcement of the impending redundancy exercise has remained tight-lipped over many questions raised by the media, workers and its leadership.
Strike action by GMWU
This action comes after the Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU) last week served notice it will embark on a full-blown strike by Tuesday, March 27, 2018, if the government does not call mining giant Goldfields to order.
Per the union’s directives which was contained in a statement copied to the B&FT, prior to the intended strike action which is expected to take place in three weeks, there will be, “hoisting and wearing of red bands by all workers in the mining industry beginning Tuesday, March 13, 2018.”
This will be followed by a sympathy one-day sit-down strike action by all workers in the mining industry on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, if nothing is done.
A strike notice the B&FT has gathered has been served the National Labor Commission (NLC).
According to GMWU the strike is as a result of the indiscriminate and intimidation over the company’s attempts to serve termination letters to over 2000 permanent employees to be laid off as part of its proposed retrenchment.
In the statement, the union said, the raging impasse which begun in November 2017 between them and Goldfields Ghana Limited over the latter’s avowed determination to terminate over 2,150 workers’ permanent employment through a redundancy exercise and opt for contract mining appears to have reached a crescendo and the matter now of public concern.
This is why the GMWU, “has painstakingly put the relevant facts and all the necessary information on the matter into the public space for critical analysis and scrutiny,” the statement said.
Tension at Goldfields
Tension is said to be rising because the management of the mining giant Goldfields, last weekend is said to have brought in armed military men to ensure that, workers collect termination letters which allow Goldfields move from “Owner Mining” to “Contract Mining”.
But even that was not enough, as enterprise union officials who attempted to apprise unionized workers of the developments in respect of the court ruling and matters arising were either arrested or locked out.
“Sadly, unionized workers who also did not sign these letters were also locked out.”
It took the National leadership of the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMWU) to move into the Tarkwa mine of Goldfields to claim the staff who are union members and stop the distribution of the said letters by management.
Following the huge armed military presence, the B&FT has gathered that, there is an atmosphere of insecurity, fear and panic has since engulfed the workers at the Goldfields (Tarkwa Mine) with most of them not too sure of what to expect next.
As a consequence of the foregoing, the National Executive Council of Ghana Mineworkers (TUCG) called an emergency Council meeting on March 6, 2018 at Tarkwa to extensively deliberate on the Gold Fields issue and have resolved that if government and its regulatory institutions do not call Gold Fields to order despite the glaring infractions on the law the union will go ahead with its intended nationwide strike.
However, the union warns it will go ahead with the full-blown strike action in the third week if the development continues, since Goldfields is strengthened by the presence of military personnel who had been sent to the mine a day earlier and without recourse to the application for stay of execution, coerced workers to sign unto redundancy letters in the full glare of armed military personnel.
The union also accused the mining giant of showing disrespect to legal framework in Ghana that, “typical of their ruthless character as multinationals and their penchant for disregarding host country legal framework and sanctity of contracts, the Company has unilaterally set aside the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) and the collective agreements and have gone ahead to force redundancy terminations on the workers.”
“That the needless maltreatment and psychological trauma inflicted on our colleagues at Gold Fields is extreme injustice, which if left unattended will sooner than later become a threat to justice everywhere for workers in the mining industry and by extension workers in general particularly those in the private sector in Ghana,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the union has also served notice that it is initiating international campaign on the matter by publishing the dossier on the matter on the various stock exchanges of the company, petition the ILO and call international solidarity support from its sister unions in South Africa as well as other global union federations since the powers that be in Ghana are not showing the commitment to resolve the matter internally.