Fellow Ghanaian Workers, on this May Day 2020, let us all resolve not to accept any more platitudes from our political leaders. Let us demand amendment of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) to ensure that workers receive unemployment or financial hardship benefits from SSNIT, while we are still alive. Platitudes don’t put food on the table.

We have been hearing ‘Ayekoo to our workers’ for umpteen years now. Are you not angry, that under this same God’s blue heaven, workers in the United States of America are not only expecting ‘Thank you’ from their government but are also expecting a check (cheque), as part of the US government’s package to support low-income families to deal with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic!

The Pensions Act has created two mandatory tiers of pension that all employees contribute to. Employees have no choice; contributions to these pension schemes are mandatory. Never mind the fact that there is no such thing as unemployment benefit in Ghana, a contributor who faces difficult financial times cannot access any portion of their benefits unless they have retired or meet a number of qualifying conditions.

In a recent response to the call by former President Mahama for SSNIT to support contributors who are facing financial challenges under the Coronavirus pandemic, SSNIT claimed Act 766 has tied their hands and hence there is nothing they can do to support workers. Yes, they found it easy to donate ¢500,000 to the COVID-19 Trust Fund, under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

If you are sitting at home on this May Day 2020 as a Ghanaian worker who has been contributing to the SSNIT Pension and you don’t know where your next meal will come from, have you heard from the COVID-19 Trust Fund? Have you received any mobile money from the Fund? Have the platitudes from the President and the former President and SSNIT and all those who claim to have your interest at heart converted into mobile money for your next meal?

If you are a Ghanaian worker, I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
• Who are the people whose businesses get equity investment from SSNIT over the years?
• Who are the people who get contracts awarded by SSNIT over the years?
• Who are the beneficiaries of all SSNIT investments that have gone bad over the years?
• How many SSNIT Management staff have ever been prosecuted and convicted for all the funds that have been dissipated over the years, as widely reported in the media?

The law as it stands does not allow SSNIT to pay ‘benefits’ to contributors before they retire or die or meet a number of qualifying conditions. But the law allows SSNIT to spend money on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). If SSNIT were so minded to support contributors during the Coronavirus pandemic, they could come into an agreement with the COVID-19 Trust Fund and designate that all the CSR spending from SSNIT to the Fund should be directly remitted to contributors.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the amount would be, it would show that SSNIT does not only care about rewarding senior management and the elite in society who directly benefit from workers’ contribution by way of investments and contracts, but they also care about we the ordinary contributors. Short of that, workers must demand immediate amendment of Act 766, to make it possible for contributors to withdraw up to 20-30% of their accrued benefits in times of unemployment or financial hardships. It does not make any sense to keep contributors’ benefits while they suffer and die, only for SSNIT to immediately pay out their benefits to survivors! That is stupidity!

Let us demand amendment of Act 766. Let us make amendment of Act 766 an election issue. In the 2020 elections, Ghanaian workers must not put their votes on auto-pilot. No political party or politician deserves the votes of workers unless they put forward concrete proposals and timelines to amend Act 766 so that Ghanaian workers, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, can receive unemployment and other financial hardship benefits from SSNIT! The money belongs to workers. SSNIT is a Trustee, holding the funds in trust for us.

The law was made for workers, not workers for the law. The law as it stands only benefit the elite, not ordinary workers. Former President Mahama has put his hat in the ring on this issue. He and the NDC must immediately come out with concrete proposals to amend Act 766. President Akufo-Addo and the NPP must also tell workers what they are going to do about amending Act 766. For me, Election 2020 is a one-issue election: whoever convinces me that they will amend Act 766, gets my vote. As simple as that.

Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, Accra
May 1, 2020