Organised labour demo rocks Accra today

All is set for the nation-wide demonstration by organised labour today. Workers nationwide are demonstrating to voice their concerns over the Energy Sector Levies Act 2015, as well as hikes in electricity and water tariffs.

The demonstration is being organised because in all the deliberations organised labour had with the government, ‘nothing concrete in relation to what the government could accommodate in relation to the reduction in the taxes and levies that was placed on the table for discussion’, the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah, told the Daily Graphic in an interview.

He said in all their meetings on the utility tariff hikes, there was no indication from the government that it was going to impose more taxes on Ghanaians.

What had been indicated was the fact that there was no money in the coffers of the government to support any further increases in wages and salaries, he said.

‘It was, therefore, insensitive on the part of the government to foist on Ghanaians the act, considering the fact that workers had compromised in not demanding more than the 10 per cent increases in the wages for the year,’ he said.

He said it was, therefore, insensitive for the government to foist the act on Ghanaians, considering the fact that workers had compromised in not demanding more than the 10 per cent increase in wages for the year.

He said the act imposed an additional 10 per cent hike in taxes and that was bound to erode workers’ incomes.

Mr Asamoah said executives of organised labour had not taken entrenched positions but were not inflexible but cautious, since, given the tough economic circumstances, they needed to present to their constituents concrete details of any reduction in utility tariffs and fuel price hikes.

‘What the government had been able to do was to give indications which were not concrete enough to share with workers,’ he said.

The last major civil protest by workers happened on Monday, July 24, 2014 when the TUC coordinated a demonstration which saw more than 24 unions and associations demonstrating through the major streets of the capital, with concurrent protests in all regional capitals.

The protest at the time was against a fast depreciating cedi and a harsh economic environment.

The demonstration witnessed an impressive turn-out.

Workers’ associations such as the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), the Association of Pharmacists, the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, the Ghana National

Association of Teachers (GNAT), the transport unions, the private sector and many workers’ groups showed unanimous support for the protest and took part in it.

Concurrent protests are expected to take place in all the regional capitals, with workers presenting their concerns to the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Iddrissu, in Accra and regional political heads in the various regional capitals.

In November 2015, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), in response to a statement by the TUC on public hearings and stakeholder engagements organised by the commission, during which majority of consumers expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of service provided by utility service providers, issued a statement saying that the claims were not a true reflection of proceedings at the various meetings.

The commission added that it had not reached any decision on tariff adjustments.

On December 7, 2015, the PURC announced electricity tariff adjustments that were to take effect from December 14, 2015.

On Friday, January 15, 2016, organised labour held a press conference to announce its decision to go ahead with a road map of protests to demand reduction in utility tariff hikes and taxes on fuel that it said was eroding workers’ salaries.

On Monday, January 18, 2016, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations also held a press briefing, telling journalists that the government was prepared to accommodate reduction in utility tariffs but could not scrap the act.

Meanwhile, pressure group, OccupyGhana, has thrown its weight behind today’s organised labour nationwide protest against the country’s prevailing economic conditions.

‘Organised labour and all well-meaning Ghanaians are fully aware that should the suffocating hiked taxes and tariffs be allowed to run past the first quarter, the government runs a heightened risk of economic rebellion due to the inability of citizens to honour tax obligations. An underground economy beckons,’it said in a statement.

It also called on the public to wear red on Friday in support of its Red Friday campaign, also aimed at expressing anger at the country’s living conditions and some government policies.

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