PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE GMWU TO LAUNCH THE CAMPAIGN FOR THE RATIFICATION OF THE ILO CONVENTION 176 (Safety in the Mines Convention)
National Chairman’s Remarks
The National Chairman welcomed journalists and other pressmen/women who had reported at the conference to cover the launch of the campaign as well as the NEC members. He briefed the media and the NEC members about the Convention 176 and the effort so far made by the GMWU to getting both past and present governments to ratify it. He said the Convention was adopted in 1995 by the ILO to address the appalling working conditions of mine workers across the globe. But unfortunately, successive Ghana governments had paid lip service to its ratification.
He intimated that although Ghana had a Mining Regulation but there were inherent gaps which create health and safety concerns for mineworkers in the country. He revealed that the Convention 176 was the international health and safety standard document for all mines around the world today. He said that the campaign was aimed at reengaging government and also garnering support from individuals, corporate bodies, NGOs, civil society groups, etc, to mount a sustained pressure on government till the ratification of the Convention.
The Press Statement
The General Secretary of Ghana Mineworkers’ Union read the statement and said that the role of the ILO and its Conventions in shaping the legal and regulatory frameworks of Ghana could not be over emphasized. He particularly alluded to ILO Conventions 87 and 98 as very instrumental in both the 1992 National Constitution and the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651). He said he was intriguingly surprised about the successive governments continuous and blatant reneging on their promises to ratify the Convention 176. He said giving the recent spate of mine fatalities around the globe, the government ought to demonstrate its commitment to the welfare of mine workers in Ghana by ratifying the Convention. He gave a brief exposition on the Convention.
The ILO Convention 176 (Safety in the Mines Convention)
The Convention, like most of the ILO Conventions, is a product of tripartite negotiation involving the social partner (governments, employers and labour) at the international level at the ILO of which Ghana was a participant.
The Convention is a reflection of balanced interests of the major stakeholders in the global mining industry. The Convention was adopted on 22nd June 1995 at the 82nd Session of the ILO General Conference at Geneva. The Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (No.176), is central to achieving decent work in an industry, which has occupational safety and health as its main challenge. Convention 176 provides the necessary basis for a sustainable mining industry that ensures that its workers return from their workplaces safe and healthy and that companies can attract and retain workers.
Highlight of the Convention 176 (Safety in the Mines Convention)
Part I. Definitions
The Convention defines a mine to cover surface or underground sites where exploration for minerals, excluding oil and gas, that involves the mechanical disturbance of the ground; extraction of minerals, excluding oil and gas; preparation, including crushing, grinding, concentration or washing of the extracted material; and all machinery, equipment, appliances, plant, buildings and civil engineering structures used in conjunction with these activities. For the purpose of this Convention, the term employer also means any physical or legal person who employs one or more workers in a mine and, as the context requires, the operator, the principal contractor, contractor or subcontractor.
Part II. Scope and Means of Application
The Convention applies to all mines with the institution of a competent authority which may exclude certain categories of mines from the application of the Convention, provide supervision for safety and health in mines; initiate the inspection of mines by inspectors designated for the purpose by the competent authority; define the procedures for reporting and investigating fatal and serious accidents, dangerous occurrences and mine disasters, each as defined by national laws or regulations; compile and publish statistics on accidents, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences, each as defined by national laws or regulations; the establishment of effective procedures to ensure the implementation of the rights of workers and their representatives to be consulted on matters and to participate in measures relating to safety and health at the workplace among other things.
Part III. Preventive and Protective Measures at the Mine
A. Responsibilities of Employers
In this Part of the Convention the employer is mandated to assess all risks and deal with it in the following order of priority: eliminate the risk; control the risk at source; minimize the risk by means that include the design of safe work systems; and in so far as the risk remains, provide for the use of personal protective equipment, having regard to what is reasonable, practicable and feasible, and to good practice and the exercise of due diligence. Where workers are exposed to physical, chemical or biological hazards the employer shall inform the workers, in a comprehensible manner, of the hazards associated with their work, the health risks involved and relevant preventive and protective measures provided among other responsibilities.
B. Rights and Duties of Workers and their Representatives
Under this part of the Convention workers have the right to report accidents, dangerous occurrences and hazards to the employer and to the competent authority; to request and obtain, where there is cause for concern on safety and health grounds, inspections and investigations to be conducted by the employer and the competent authority; to know and be informed of workplace hazards that may affect their safety or health; to obtain information relevant to their safety or health, held by the employer or the competent authority; to remove themselves from any location at the mine when circumstances arise which appear, with reasonable justification, to pose a serious danger to their safety or health among others.
They also have the duty to comply with prescribed safety and health measures; take reasonable care for their own safety and health and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work, including the proper care and use of protective clothing, facilities and equipment placed at their disposal for this purpose; to report forthwith to their immediate supervisor any situation which they believe could present a risk to their safety or health or that of other persons, and which they cannot properly deal with themselves.
Part IV. Implementation
In this part of the Convention the ratifying country takes all necessary measures, including the provision of appropriate penalties and corrective measures, to ensure the effective enforcement of the provisions of the Convention; and provide appropriate inspection services to supervise the application of the measures to be taken in pursuance of the Convention and provide these services with the resources necessary for the accomplishment of their tasks.
Questions and Answers
Two questions emerged from the pressmen/women after the statement was read.
Question: What reasons/excuses had the successive governments given as a justification for not ratifying the Convention?
Answer: Governments bid to attract foreign direct investment had often times been cited putting it at a very tight corner in taking certain decisions that would be disincentive to its investment drive. Powerful multinationals bent on reaping as much profit as possible, make a lot of things as conditionality for investments including avoiding legislation that commit them. Unfortunately, Ghana governments have kowtowed to the dictates of these multi nationals operating in the mining industry much to the detriment of the safety needs of the citizenry.
Question: Why had it taken the GMWU so long a time to campaign for the ratification of the Convention?
Answer: The GMWU had undertaken a lot of activities which included lobbying parliamentarians, sensitization activities, advocacy on the Convention, etc, to getting the Convention ratified but to no avail.
In closing the conference, the General Secretary appealed to the press to partner with GMWU to get the Convention ratified by way of highlighting the concerns of mine workers in their media so that it gets to the appropriate quarters. The press left for the NEC meeting to commence.