African Labor Relations and Workers' Rights: Assessing the Role of the International Labor Organization

Article excerpt

Panford, Kwamina. African labor relations and workers' rights: Assessing the role of the International Labor Organization. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1994. xviii + 223 pp. Notes, appendices, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-313-29066-0.

This book examines public policy and industrial relations practice in Ghana, focusing on specific labour legislation and the extent to which such legislations protects or, as the case may be, interferes with workers' rights in the employment relationship. The yardsticks employed in assessing the role of labour legislation are two key ILO instruments; namely, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

Drawing largely on existing literature and historical records, the author makes a good synthesis of the policy options that faced African governments at independence; namely, to curtail workers' rights, ostensibly for the sake of rapid economic development, or to allow workers' unions the freedom to pursue the economic interests of their members without restraint. By opting for curtailment of freedom of association and the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, successive governments in Ghana and three other African countries (Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia) severely infringed on the two international labour standards which they had voluntarily ratified. Yet, as the author points out, this policy option has not brought about the anticipated development. In the event, the author proposes that policies designed to curb workers' rights have been dictated by socio-political exigencies rather than a genuine commitment to economic growth and development.

The book aptly describes the mediating role of the ILO, with particular reference to its standard-setting functions, and how the Organization encourages governments to enact labour legislation and pursue labour relations practices which are consistent with international labour standards. …