May 1st is universally celebrated as International Workers Day. On this occasion, workers around the world are honored and appreciated for their immense contributions.
But this was not the case in Ghana. Ironically, President Akuffo Addo used the day to tear into Ghanaian workers --- those in the formal sector --- describing them as slobs and cheats. Many have gleefully jumped on the President's bandwagon and endorsed his public humiliation of our tireless workers.
Like millions of Ghanaian workers who took umbrage/offense at the president's remarks, I, too, was miffed and flabbergasted. I did not understand the president's outburst. His tone was confrontational and belligerent.
He literally accused Ghanaian workers of being unpatriotic and essentially putting their interests above those of the nation.
Here is a sample of what Mr. Addo said: "We arrive at work late, and then spend the first hour in prayer, we become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. We have no respect for the hours set aside for work, we pray, we eat, we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the phone, we take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive."
Why Mr. Addo elected to use May 1st to upbraid Ghanaian workers eludes me. After all, it was a day to give thanks to Ghanaian workers for all they have done to build our country.
My best guess is that the president's speech was an exercise in political expediency, and it clearly smacked of naked opportunism. There is no doubt that Mr. Addo wants to look tough to the Ghanaian public; he desperately wants to project this image of a president in full control, a leader who has no qualms about telling it as it is without fear or favor.
While giving Mr. Addo the benefit of the doubt, it must also be stressed that his characterization of Ghanaian workers as lazy and taking undue advantage of the system was broad, way off base and constituted a blanket indictment of an entire group.
For starters, contrary to the president's portrayal, it is just a tiny number in the neighborhood of 2 to 4 percent of Ghanaian workers who engage in the activities he listed. The remaining 98 or 96 percent is firmly anchored to the rules and regulations of their work place.
And it is crucial to point out that the Ghanaian worker, be he or she a teacher, a doctor, a police officer, a soldier, a firefighter, a civil servant or a nurse, I must emphasize, is not by any stretch of the imagination, lazy and uncommitted to their chosen profession as the president would have us believe.
Ghanaian workers are industrious and conscious of the huge responsibilities they owe to the Ghanaian society that pays their wages and salaries. Day in and day out, they, despite the numerous challenges staring them in the face ----unfavorable working conditions, poor pay, shabby equipment, stressful work environment and high transportation cost---still find it within themselves to give their maximum, their very best to ensure that the wheels of our economy, and by extension, that of the nation, turns smoothly without hitches.
The fact remains that Ghanaian workers don't despair easily; they go to work every morning secured in the knowledge that they are doing so for the greater public good.
We are all witnesses to the remarkable heroism of our professionals; it is therefore disingenuous and unsettling that the president who should know better would choose to pick a fight with our heroes on a day when he should be praising them.
I will be the first to admit that Ghanaian workers have a lot of shortcomings. However, to publicly humiliate them as the president did on May day is to signal that he doesn't trust them, and that they are not capable of discharging the duties entrusted to them.
Unfortunately, the president's action telegraphed the wrong message to potential foreign investors. Instead of sniping at our workers, the least the president can do for them is to improve their dismay working conditions. Mr. Addo himself has openly acknowledged that Ghanaian workers are poorly paid.
Well, the opportunity is now ripe for the president to dramatically alter the lives of Ghanaian workers by giving them a pay raise. A pay increase will definitely go a long way towards instilling hope and confidence in our tireless workers.
And finally, Ghanaian workers deserve a modicum of respect from the occupant of the highest office in the land.