When I received the first E-mail from a Ghanaian woman working for an agency called Reliance, through which she and her colleagues work for Tigo-Ghana, it was obvious the woman was frustrated and yet knew her employment rights were being ‘frivolously’ tramped on.
What was even more obvious was that, she was afraid; she would be sacked for voicing out the apparent injustice a new maternity policy having been instituted was going to champion—women workers through a shrewd policy have been forfeited a crucial labour right.
The E-mail despondently read;
I may not be able to write a heartfelt email to you on this topic. From the little I read from your blog I know these are some of the injustices you speak against.
I am not a celebrity but I hope you find it worthy to do something about this issue at Tigo (Millicom GH Ltd) and how contract staff are being treated; this is just one of the many things that is wrong with this company.
Please find attached. I am sorry I am writing to you as without my identity but pleae understand.
I have been an employee before and her fears resonated with me on that level. I also perfectly understand the positions of companies, agency relationships—and could roughly get what was going on.
Globally, companies have become interestingly cunning—and this is because their main objective remains profit maximization. As such, granting workers rights has been a long fight and therefore to run away from such sane responsibilities as well as others, most companies have in contemporary structures decided to directly employ just a few core people and mostly rely on agency staff for their operations.
This way, the parent company would not be legally responsible on so many layers to someone working for it, while the agencies providing these persons may unilaterally shred these responsibilities because of their notoriety in such regard.
In this case, it seems as though, despite these female workers working hard for Tigo, they are not employees of Tigo directly and it could also be argued that, they are not even employees of Reliance (the agency Tigo is sourcing its staff from) because of how the agency has positioned itself and policies.
It’s therefore absurd, somewhat pathetic that even though a person could be working, the person wouldn’t be an employee of any of the two companies she is ‘busting her butt’ for and as such wouldn’t enjoy the existing employment rights—all because, these companies are craftily structured to make this possible.
This is inhumane and a clear abuse of legal structures and processes.
And this has been the case for many of the multi-national companies like Nike and Nestle, which rely greatly on outsourcing and third world labour. Various labour laws including child labor and poor working conditions or rights are openly violated and when mostly approached, they would easily argue that, these people do not work for us directly—therefore, we didn’t know our outsourcing company or supplier was doing this.
Since profit maximizing remains the backbone of their operations; common decency and workers rights would mostly be relegated so this would be achieved.
Outsourcing has become prevalent today, and therefore it’s ethically well placed that a parent company which decides to rely on outsourcing or agency workers must ensure that these workers are fairly treated by its agents—at least, just as they would have reasonably treated them if they were directly employing them.
It’s inherently fair that, such a responsibility is placed on the parent company—because, they are mostly the big shots and as I’ve already mentioned, the agencies or middlemen are notoriously rogue when it comes to dealing with workers right.
Legally, numerous labour laws may confer on employees certain important human rights but the conundrum remains; at what point does a person even become an employee—and whether these companies whose shoulders the rights must spring from are ready to adhere to their legal responsibilities.
Ghana has a well set out Labor Act, but many workers continue to be exploited, denied their basic rights—because, they are desperate to work and the companies they work for do not care about legislation. The big companies like Tigo which can be fetched and be compelled to do the right thing has smartly also fallen on outsourcing, so they can to some extent dodge the hovering legal duties.
It is a complex network, but I would argue that this is primarily an act of capitalism, just to rob the ordinary worker of certain entitlements so that the capitalists will continue to flourish in profit. Intrinsically, capitalism is exploitative—and it must always be forced to do the right thing.
On the back of GhanaCelebrities.Com’s publication on the Tigo Ghana-Reliance staff no maternity policy, Tigo-Ghana has come out to say, it will swiftly take an action—as the company recognizes the obvious injustice that their own agent is championing.
Of course, Tigo-Ghana says; “it’s not our fault really—we don’t employ these people directly.”
The CEO of Tigo-Ghana, Roshi Motman commenting on the issue wrote: “This is the first time I am hearing of this. We would never approve such a policy. This is our outsourcing partner and we will take action. I am first and foremost a woman and mother, then a business leader. /CEO Tigo Ghana.”
A communication executive for Tigo-Gifty Osei-Boakye Bingley also had this to say; “This is absolutely not from Tigo. We are global company with operations all around the world. We are an equal opportunities employer with deep respect for diversity and inclusion. We will speak to the out-sourced Agency, Reliance and take action.”
Interestingly, the two from Tigo, all women placed emphasis on the fact that, it’s their independent partner treating their women staff this appallingly—and claim, they don’t even know about this policy. Reasonably, they should know—“he who does business with a crook, ought to have a fair idea about this crook”, my friend commented.
Of course, it has now become evident that Tigo-Ghana is not directly the employer of these women—but its outsourced Agency. Nevertheless, it would be unconscionable to exonerate Tigo-Ghana from any wrong doing in this, especially doing business with such an obvious scoundrel agent.
The complexity in out-sourcing makes it difficult at any point in time to easily point out who is really the employer of a worker—there are instances that an agency would argue that a person is not their employee, and the recruited for company would also do the same, so they could all duck a legal responsibility. Sometimes, companies would spend thousands in court, just to argue that a person is not their employee—all because, they do not want to do what’s just.
This saga may slightly taint the reputation of Tigo-Ghana but as I mentioned to the CEO of Tigo Ghana via a chat yesterday, I believe if she really and genuinely cares about women’s right as she claims, then sacrificing a small ‘reputational’ damage so that such a grand injustice and criminality could be fixed for the common good of women is worth it.
If anything at all, Tigo-Ghana should with immediate effect terminate its outsourcing dealings with Reliance, and commence a thorough investigation into their workers rights placement and treatments.
Similarly, the many other companies such as MTN and HFC Investments using Reliance ought to do the same—to serve as a deterrent to the many rogue agencies in operation who are being indicted for such gross labour rights violations.
Multinationals should respect the human rights of their employees—and in complex agency-employment situations like this, the most powerful company in the relationship must ensure that the human rights of all workers at all levels are duly respected.
By simply delegating recruitment responsibilities to an agent or relying on an agent for human resource for whatever convenient reasons should not in all fairness absolve a company from ensuring that workers are accorded the required dignity, enshrined in international legal instruments and that of the jurisdictions they operate within. Doing business with a tainted hands equally taints yours or as some would put it, you cannot get another to do your dirty job for you and easily walk-away without a taint.
I sincerely hope Tigo-Ghana does what’s right; and on the back of this conversation, I also ‘pray’ we would be able to highlight the many existing labour law violations hovering around in Ghana, especially when it comes to the issue of women’s rights and decent treatment at the workplace.
The existing gender inequality in our part of the world is appalling and with female CEOs as that of Tigo-Ghana, we hoped to see the gap bridged—and not to be mentioning their names in such unfortunate discussions.
I have received several E-mails from other workers of various huge companies in Ghana complaining of diverse labour law violations following our Tigo-Ghana-Reliance saga and many of such people have mentioned that, the Ghana Labour Commission has literally and metaphorically become a ‘useless institution’ that poorly handles such complaints.
GhanaCelebriries.Com may not be able to highlight all individual workplace issues but we would take up some of the serious violations via highlighting them to the public to force the hands of these companies to fetch the needed change. You can contact us via; firstname.lastname@example.org
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