The National Labour Commission (NLC) takes its origin from the Labour Act (2003), Act 651. This act came into force several years after Ghana gained independence in 1957. Before the promulgation of Act 651, the Industrial Relations Act (1960), Act 299 governed labour relations. Under Act 299, the Labour Department under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare was in charge of managing and settling industrial disputes.
Act 651 has been described as consensus document because it is a negotiated law where there was a lot of give and take by the social partners in labour relations. The social partners comprise government as an employer’s, organization.
The Act also brought a new face to labour management relations in Ghana. It combines industrial relations and industrial laws as well as good practices which have evolved over the years into one common statute.
Of course, the enactment of Act 651 was to conform to the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana and also t he International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on labour management relations, which Ghana has rectified.
In the twentieth century, because there have been many agitations arising from the disagreement between governments and their employees as well as private sector employees in respect of better conditions to establish independent bodies that could facilitate the settlement of such disputes which hitherto has the potential of driving foreign investors away because of lack of peace and harmony on the industrial scene.
The creation of the NLC in Ghana is in response to this global phenomenon. The NLC, thus, becomes the sole institution to facilitate and settle industrial disputes using dialogue.
Established in 2005, under section 135 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651), its law applies to all workers as well as employers with the exception of the Ghana Armed Forces. Police Service, Prison Service and other Security and Intelligence Agencies provided for under the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1996 (Act 526). Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) is also excluded by a Supreme Court decision.
Its major mandate includes receiving labour-related complaints, facilitating the settlement of Industrial disputes, settling industrial disputes and promoting effective cooperation between labour and management.
In this regard, it is important to acknowledge the role of the Commission as it has since its inception recorded thousands of complaints and subsequently settled over 70 percent of them.
These achievements form part of the Commission’s vision to have a harmonious industrial relations environment borne out of the firm undertaking and committed compliance with the Labour Laws by all stakeholders in order to make the Ghanaian economy competitive to attract investment.
As part of its mission, the Commission is to develop and sustain a peaceful and harmonious industrial relations environment, through the use of cooperation among the labour market players and mutual respect for their rights and responsibilities.
The NLC also performs other roles in areas such as investigating labour-related complaints, particularly, unfair labour practices and taking such steps as it considers necessary to prevent such disputes. It also maintains a data base of mediators and arbitrators.
Aside these fundamental activities, the Commission in the exercise of it adjudicating and dispute settlement functions, is not subject to t he control or direction of any person or authority. In other words, it is an independent body and thus takes decisions without any interference from any quarters.
Further, the Commission has the powers of the High Court to receive complaints from workers, trade unions, and employers ‘ organizations on industrial disagreements and allegations of infringement of any requirement of the Labour Act as well as the regulations made under the Act.
Others are to require an employer to furnish information and statistics concerning the employment of its workers an the terms and conditions of their employment in the form and manner the Commission considers necessary.-