Oil in Ghana: The Work of the General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers' Union (GTPCWU)
Utilising elements of Coordination and Context-Appropriate Power Theory (CCAP) as a framework, this article assesses the efforts of the General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers’ Union (GTPCWU) in Ghana to defend the rights of workers in the oil industry. Whether the GTPCWU has been able to effectively employ structural, institutional and conditional forms of power is examined within the CCAP framework. The analysis is informed by first-hand knowledge of trade union policies and practices, as one of the authors is a GTPCWU official. The research also draws on interviews and email communications with other Ghanaian trade unionists and an academic specialising in labour issues. The findings indicate that the structured labour regime, in which the GTPCWU is embedded, makes it hard for the union to employ structural, institutional and conditional forms of power fruitfully. Nevertheless, agency on the part of union officials and members is significant. This is evidenced by the success of individual union actions, indicating that the GTPCWU possesses a degree of structural power. Utilising institutional power effectively is difficult for the union, as enforcement of labour legislation is weak, and lengthy legal processes ensue when cases do reach court. It is also burdensome for the GTPCWU to exercise conditional power, based on obtaining support from non-union individuals and groups, since its members are widely perceived to have well-paid employment in the formal sector. The GTPCWU’s need for assistance in supporting its members through the transition away from fossil-based systems of energy production is outlined. Capacity-building initiatives, including the construction of a training and conference facility, and recruitment campaigns, focusing on attracting more women and youth members, are discussed.
KEYWORDS: Ghana; trade unions; oil industry; Coordination and Context-Appropriate Power Theory (CCAP); structural, institutional and conditional forms of power
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