Difficult week ahead for gov’t as TEWU kick starts public sector agitation

The week ahead is set to be difficult for government as labour unions serve notice of scheduled industrial actions to press home various demands.

The Teacher and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) will kick start the impending agitations on the labour front Monday with a nationwide strike.

TEWU members say they will not show up at tertiary institutions to provide support services due to failure of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to deliver on a promise to bridge the gap between salaries of senior and junior staff of public universities.

TEWU Chairman, Peter Lumor, told Joy News the posture of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission on the matter has been disappointing.

“Almost three years now, we go and just when we are making progress Fair Wages comes out with another development and we go back. In May 2015 Fair Wages, TEWU and Vice Chancellors Ghana met to demand that the distortions that have been recognized be addressed.

“The conclusion was that the gap between senior and junior staff should be bridged but since June 2015 Fair Wages has not called for a meeting. In November we called on Fair wages asking for a meeting to resolve the issues but there was no response.”

He said a letter written to the Commission on January 7, 2016 is yet to be reverted.

According to TEWU the Commission has been pushing aside their salary demands for two long years.

But there is a bigger headache ahead in the week for government.

Over 500,000 members of public sector workers who make up the Trades Union Congress (TUC) will be clad in red Monday in preparation for a big demonstration on Wednesday.

The TUC members want government to scrap recent price hikes in utility and petroleum products.

At a meeting last week, government rejected a request by the labour unions for a controversial energy sector levy to be scrapped. The levy has resulted in a 28% increase in prices of petroleum products.

Also water and electricity tariffs have seen an increase of over 50% each. The Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) increased electricity tariff by 59.2 % and water tariff by 67.2% for residential consumers in December 2015.

Organised Labour said in a statement last week the price increases “are reckless and a display of the insensitivity on the part of managers of the economy to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian.”

TUC Secretary General, Kofi Asamoah, says “what PURC announced [for electricity tariff] was 59% [increase] now the energy act has automatically given the opportunity for ECG to add another 10% and that is why prepaid [customers] are complaining. [Electricity tariff increase] is now around 70%.”

He adds that the timing of the petroleum price increases has worsened the plight of the Ghanaian, vowing the TUC will do everything in its power to reverse it.

However, Employment Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, says TUC demands will prove a daunting task for government.

Haruna Iddrisu
He insists halting the petroleum and utility increases will result in dire economic consequences.

“Government currently has an outstanding debt described as the Legacy Debt which was part of the report the Ministry of Finance presented to Parliament. Therefore the energy sector levy introduces the price stabilisation adjustment which will allow government to deal with the 4.5 billion Ghana cedis outstanding debt.

“We have to take those compelling decisions to put the economy on track and keep the sustainability of the energy sector utility entities running”, Haruna Iddrisu explained.

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