Ghana’s Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, announced that he has agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gold Fields workers that have been protesting over the possible layoff of 1,500 staff.
The cutback is a consequence of Gold Fields’ decision to hire a contractor to operate the Tarkwa mine, located in southwestern Ghana. The operation is the largest in the country, with estimated reserves of 9.1 million oz of gold and an annual production of 550,000 ounces.
According to Gold Fields, Tarkwa has a mine life of some five years and it is not worth to continue investing heavily in it. This is why back in December 2017, the company announced the hiring of a third party to run it.
Such restructuring process implies the dismissal of about 1,500 people, while other labourers would change their status from permanent to contract staff which, according to them, would imply receiving fewer benefits. The Ghana Mine Workers Union tried reversing the decision in court earlier this year but after the attempt failed, its leadership has been ramping up protest actions.
On Monday, seven people were arrested following a demonstration that was blocking the main access to the mine and that ended up with police dispersing the crowd with tear gas. According to local media, four people were injured.
Given this turn of events, Amewu decided to propose the aforementioned MoU to ensure that the workers who will be affected by the redundancy programme are re-engaged under a new arrangement.
“The principles of the layoffs are such that whoever comes in as the staff contractor is going to re-engage those workers and those workers are going be paid 25 per cent of their annual salary for every year that they work,” the minister told a local radio station.