Government’s ‘obsession with taxes’ killing workers, businesses – Organised Labour

Organised Labour on Tuesday condemned what it described as the government’s ‘socially undemocratic and unacceptable’ obsession with imposing taxes on ordinary Ghanaians.

The Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Kofi Asamoah, made this known at the Independence square where thousands of workers had converged, following a protest march that began at the Obraa Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.

‘Organised Labour is not in denial of the need for some increases in utility tariffs. However, given the current situation of Ghanaians, including the fact that public sector salaries went up by only 10 per cent when inflation is about 17 per cent, we firmly believe that the levels of the current increases are unbearable for workers and businesses.

‘The AGI and all other business groups are clear in their analyses that industry is suffering,’ he said.

Mr Asamoah called on the government to effect a downward adjustment of the recent utility tariff increment to 50 per cent for electricity and water instead of the 59.2 per cent and 67.2 per cent imposed respectively.

He also demanded that the government withdrew the Energy Sector Levies Act 899, which he said had ‘occasioned very steep increases in petroleum prices’ at a time when crude oil prices were “tumbling on the international market and exchange rate of the Ghana cedi was relatively stable”.

The TUC Secretary General suggested that the flurry of taxes imposed on Ghanaians this year was an attempt by the government ‘to fix all our economic challenges within a couple of months or within a year’ – a development he said could result in social instability with implications for both ‘economy and the politics’.

Presenting a petition to the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Idrissu, for onward delivery to the Flagstaff House, Mr Asamoah said Organsied Labour remained committed to dialoguing with the government towards ‘the economic and social development of the country’.

He expressed hope that the day’s demonstration would touch the heart of President John Mahama, whom he described as ‘compassionate’.

Receiving the petition, Mr Idrissu stressed that government would not take interest in ‘inflicting pain on Ghanaian workers, adding that the ‘actions of government’ in respect of the utility tariff increment and the introduction of the Energy Sector Levies Act, were ‘necessary and compelling’.

He said: ‘We could have chosen a more easy path for political expediency not to do this even in an election year, but that should let you appreciate that we need to improve the health of the economy, the health of our energy institutions and sustainable development of our country.

‘Some of the decisions that we have taken, as difficult as they may, will be to protect your jobs in the immediate and foreseeable future.

‘We know our decisions hurt. It hurts businesses. It hurts workers, but we have done so in order to protect jobs.’

The Employment Minister said that the government would continue negotiating with Organsied Labour, pledging that some ‘overtures’ would be made to the union.

Thousands of workers, clad in red and black attire, participated in Tuesday’s demonstration, setting off from the Obraa Spot in Accra and marching through some principal streets of the Capital before converging on the Independence Square in an exercise that lasted over 90 minutes.

The demonstrators, mostly singing and dancing, displayed placards with inscriptions such as ‘Your Excellency, fix the economy and stop the blame game’, ‘We want the utility tariffs cut in half now’ and ‘We need leaders who can bring change’.

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