A South African mining company with a long-term contract to extract Ghana’s precious gold reserves is facing nationwide strikes after it announced plans to outsource some 2,000 jobs from their operations in Ghana.
Gold Fields Ghana, which holds leases for 51,500 acres, produces about 550,000 ounces of gold per year at its Tarkwa mine and employs directly and indirectly about 8,000 Ghanaians, said that outsourcing would enable the firm to remain profitable.
But plans to vacate contracts with thousands of workers were rebuffed as “horrifying” by Ghana’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) “given the already precarious employment situation.” The corporation’s manoeuvres to protect profits are also meeting strong resistance from the Ghana Mine Workers Union which has charged Gold Fields with “acts of corporate greed at the expense of Ghanaian mine workers.”
In an interview with the news site Fin24, Prince William Ankrah, the 16,000-member union’s general secretary, laid down the gauntlet. “We cannot allow this to happen, all the reasons given by Gold Fields are flawed,” Ankrah declared.
“We will send a delegation to protest at the company’s next annual general meeting to let all shareholders know how their management is cheating workers.”
At a recent meeting of union heads, it was decided that all workers in the mining industry wear red scarfs. Sympathy strikes will begin March 20 leading to a full-blown general industry-wide strike by March 27 if no settlement is reached.
This is the second time in three years that the mining firm has announced massive layoffs.
According to the Gold Fields website, the company’s vision “is to be a global leader in sustainable gold mining.” That vision, however, apparently excludes its large labor pool.
This week, an Accra High Court dismissed an injunction application filed by the union to stop Goldfields from outsourcing to private contractors. Protests at the Tarkwa mine was met with tear gas and arrests.
In 2016, Gold Fields was the beneficiary of a development package lowering taxes and adjusting its royalty rate in exchange for saving jobs and increasing hiring by 10% at Tarkwa and Damang mines. The threat of 2,000 layoffs after the generous package has added fuel to the fire of labor unrest.
“Regrettably, Gold Fields Ghana has not only reneged on its commitment to this agreement, but has resorted to the use of short term contract employment characterized by inferior employment conditions – a trend the Union is currently challenging,” Ankrah said in an open letter published last month on Citifmonline.com.