The Ghana Association of Private Employment Agencies (GHAPEA) and the Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) has petitioned key stakeholders against the re-nomination of Hon. Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Minister nominated for Employment, Labour and Social Services.
In a petition addressed to the parliament, GHAPEA explained how for the first four years term of Hon. Ignatius’ appointment he failed to help lift the ban on recruitment agencies that seek employment for citizens oversees.
The petition reads as follows;
‘I write, as a representative of key stakeholders of the employment sector, to formally caution against the august house of the 8th Parliament in the 4th Republic of Ghana, against re-nominating the above named as a minister for the employment sector.’ He may be proficient in many other roles that will move the country forward, but retaining him as a sector minister of Employment, Labour and Social Services will move the sector further backwards causing financial, social and economic loss to the country and the parties he represents. I write on behalf of the Private Employment Agencies (PEA’s) and the Ghana Association of Private Employment Agencies, licensed by the state to carry out business of scouting and recruiting Ghanaians for employment within and outside the country in accordance with the Private Employment Agencies 651 (LI 1833).
Our recommendation is not borne out of mere prejudice but solidly grounded from results of leadership style and the outcome of a catalogue of happenings during the earlier reign of Honourable Baffour Awuah. During his tenure, and against the advice of technical personnel and those of us in the private sector, he fostered a regime where the activities of illegal agents thrived as against that of legal agents working with various government arms to stamp out migration through illegal routes. The Acting Chief Labour Officer at the labour department was, for example, instructed by the Minister not to provide any pre-depature orientation nor issues exit permits for all categories of workers to all destination (even those excluding countries in the Gulf States). He lorded over an administration where the established law that required licensed recruitment agencies to present all workers they recruit (with their necessary work contracts for orientation and payment of exit permits of a stipulated capitation fees) to the Chief Labour Officer was set aside.
The backward stance assumed by the sector Minister and some of irreversible unanimous decisions taken in the place of more democratic dialogue process, caused a lot of havoc to migrant workers, forcing them to embark on migration using dangerous routes through different borders to reach their destinations. Some of the repercussions included the repatration of over 2000 migrants from the Gulf States (Lebanon and others) by Ghanaian philanthropists in November 2020. The dire consequences of some of his actions trumpeted by major stakeholders with experience of the dynamics of foreing recruitment were completely ignored by Honourable Minister all through his tenure.
To share knowledge and delibrate on sound approaches to stamp out illegal agents who were rrecklessly recruiting young ladies to outside world, especially the Gulf States, the licensed Private Employment Agencies organized a stakeholders forum under the theme ‘THE FACE OF LEGAL MIGRATION” to which the Honourable Minister was invited in May 2017. A recommendation to ban direct to home recruitment to the Gulf States, which was identified by stakeholders, to be fuelling abuse and extortion was misconstrued and the Honourable Minister on the 31st of May 2017, made a pronouncement for the temporary suspension of all foreign Labour migration to both the Gulf and other countries.
Having engaged him in dialogue severally, a clarification that he had only meant to ban direct to home or domestic workers (or both) turned out to be a mere rhetoric as the media had already gone shopping with the message of a blanket ban on all recruitment. Even though an Inter-Agency Commitee on the Management of foreign Labour Migration was established under his authority by the ministry on Tuesday 18th July 2017, with the objective to examine cross-cutting issues in order to streamline and sanitize the management of foreign labour migration, very little, if any, has altered in changing the apparent wrongful notion. To date, there is no clear clarification on what is banned or allowed. A copy of the report of the said Inter-Agency Committee is attached for your perusal.
Honourable Baffour Awuah’s four year reign has done very little to resolve Ghana’s major unemployment issues and we are now faced with 12% youth unemployment and more than50% underemployment, both higher than employment rates in Sub-Saharan African countries. As intimated by Pierre Frank Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. ” Ghana’s youth employment challenge is vast and requires an all-round deliberate and consistent response”. Labour migration although not a panacea to Ghana’s unemployment problem, could offer some valuable contribution if the right structures are instituted to streamline the process rather than demonizing it, a stance the Honorable Minister assumed during his reign.
The bank of Ghana’s report presented to the committee’s findings indicated that, Ghana between 2003 and 2011nmade progress with remittance receipts tripling to US$2.4 billion and the years ahead looking more promising. It is fair to state that some of the Ghanaian workers abroad, even from the Gulf States, contribute to this increase making the labour migration agenda a far reaching one.
Mr. Chairman, it is important to note that all members of the groups being represented here have been established through the appropriate laws and practices of licensing and recruitment processes such as Private Employment Agencies (PEA’s) Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) and Labour Regulations 2017 (LI 1833). To invoke a ban on all recruitment to the Gulf States which is the main destination for some of our members without so much as an official communique smacks of disrespect to licensed agents and the gross abuse of power by the honourable minister during his tenure.
Recommendation on the inter-agency such lifting the ban on recruitment of domestic workers to the Gulf States with the exception of direct-to-home recruitment until further notice was never actioned by the Honourable Minister during his tenure. For him to act contrary to observations by the committee that the benefits that come along with foreign labour migration especially to families, households and country as a whole cannot be underestimated and that the government is not against migration in any form once it is done within the remit of the law is clear indication he was not working in the interest of the state.
Mr. Chairman, the foregoing together with many other factors including starving various ministries, department, agencies and institutions of funds (eg. the Police service lost revenue from police criminal reports, Ghana Health Services lost out on medical screenings, IATA lost ticket sales, etc) has led us to submit this petition to your high office to deny the re-appointment of Honourable Baffour Awuah who instead of being a father figure and bringing all on board rather discourages the operations of legally registered agents and by inaction at the very least indulges the operation of illegal agents who endanger the lives of our citizens who are bent on seeking greener pastures abroad.
On behalf of the Private Employment Agencies ((PEA’s) and the Ghana Association of Private Employment Agencies (GHAPEA) Mr. Chairman, we humbly plead with you as a father for all and a law maker to consider our petition and use your esteemed position to guide appointments committee to disapprove the nomination of the incoming Minister for Employment Labour and Social Services.
A sector Minister who sets up an inter-agency committee to deal with an issue but refuses to enforce recommendations (coming out of series of meetings that used up government funds and time resources of personnel because the decisions may not have favoured his perspective) should not be encouraged to re-assume his position.
Mr. Chairman as a matter of urgency, the petitioners, Private Employment Agencies (PEA’s) and Ghana Association of Private Employment Agencies (GHAPEA) and the entire migrant workers cleave your indulgence to do the needful for the interest of Mother Ghana.”
Below is the petition;