Leadership of the Ghana Mineworkers Union has appealed to government to call Gold Fields Limited to order over its intention to lay off a total of 1,700 workers at its Tarkwa Mine in the Western Region.
The union, which is fighting to prevent Gold Fields from going ahead to dismiss the workers, has also hinted of petitioning Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, over the matter.
The decision to lay off the workers is due to a scheduled shift from owner mining to contractual mining at Gold Fields’ Tarkwa Mine.
Executive Vice President of Gold Fields, West Africa Region, Alfred Baku, told the media at a press briefing on Tuesday December 12, 2017 in Accra that to remain a sustainable mining company, Gold Fields was taking steps to reduce its operation costs, which he said have been on the increase for some time now.
The cost of blasting and haulage at the mine has increased over the years due to the ageing nature of the mine, he said.
Reagents, labour costs have also increased over the years, according to Mr Baku.
Labour cost over the last five years, for instance, has increased in dollar terms to about 60 percent “and that’s a massive cost to our operations, he said.
But the Ghana Mineworkers Union, which has already succeeded in placing a High Court injunction on the move, said the excuses being given by the mining company are totally false.
Briefing the media on Wednesday in Accra at its second National Executive Council meeting for 2017, the leadership of the Union said that the decision to lay off workers was premised solely on “selfishness and “greed” by top management of Gold Fields.
National Chairman of the Union, Kwarko Mensah Gyakari, told journalists that the move by Gold Fields was part of a grand scheme by multinationals in Ghana’s mining subsector to unacceptably reduce the number of permanent staff.
“It is a selfish move by top officials of the company because the better they are able to reduce labour cost, the better it is for their salaries to increase, he said.
According to him, some mining companies have, in their quest, to make ‘abnormal’ profits resorted to various business models which place Ghanaian workers in the sector in precarious situation.
“Ghana Mineworkers Union will never ever sit down for us to be taken for a ride,” he vowed.
He stated that contrary to claims by Gold Fields that its Life of Mine at Tarkwa was between 5 and 6 years, checks on the company website actually revealed that it has about 10 to 15 years lifespan and that 80 percent of its current fleet of equipment can work for the next 10 years.
General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union, Prince William Ankrah, in a statement, said “the Gold Fields situation has variance in accuracy.”
He urged government to listen to both sides in the dispute and establish the truth.
The Ghana Mineworkers Union has about 12,000 members across the country.
By Melvin Tarlue