Business News of 2014-07-19

Workers to go on strike; but gov’t calls for dialogue

Organised labour has called a general strike on Thursday, July 24, 2014, to protest the current economic hardships being experienced by workers.

At a well-attended press conference yesterday, the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah, who read a statement on behalf of organised labour, said on that day, all workers across the country would stay away from work and converge on designated places at the regional capitals.

The eight-point recommendation to the government also includes immediate policy initiatives and measures to ensure requisite infrastructure, immediate downward review of prices of petroleum products, immediate and effective policy measures to ensure that the Tema Oil Refinery operates at full capacity, and immediate and concrete measures to ensure that the railway sector is revamped and the plight of workers addressed.

Mr Asamoah said the strike had “become necessary to express the frustrations of working people and Ghanaians on the high and rising cost of living.” “We call on all industries and employers and indeed all Ghanaians to support and join this clarion call, “he added.

Deteriorating conditions

“As a demonstration of our preparedness to work with the government to get us out of the prevailing economic and social malaise, public sector unions, against all economic and social logic, agreed to a meagre 10 per cent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) instead of pay increase.”

“Sadly, this COLA has been eaten up by taxes, levies, fees and other increases surprisingly introduced at the same time and accompanied by persistent and rapid depreciation of the cedi against other major currencies,” Mr Asamoah said. “Even as the government has sought to explain away the rising cost of living on the depreciation of the cedi, it is pertinent to note that this depreciation is a function of economic conditions for which the government cannot escape responsibility,” he said.

Asked what the TUC would do if the one-day strike failed to compel the government to address the economic hardships in a timely manner, Mr Asamoah said the leadership would communicate their next step if that happened. “Times are really hard for working people and indeed majority of Ghanaians and the prognosis on the economy is not good either. As we have stated consistently, there is a limit to what working people and Ghanaians can take,” he stated.

Workers’ demands

To effectively deal with the harsh economic conditions, workers’ representatives, Mr Asamoah said, had demanded immediate action by the government to halt the depreciation of the cedi and the rising cost of living.

The TUC also demanded an immediate action by the government and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to address the challenges in the implementation of the new pension’s scheme, an immediate stop to the attempts by the government to impose a pension’s trust on public sector workers and immediate measures to address the perceived widespread corruption in high places.

It said all persons against whom there was evidence of such gross anti-social acts, irrespective of social or political status, must be prosecuted. The government has however, appealed to organised labour to suspend its planned strike for July 24.

A statement issued by the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said organised labour should reconsider the decision and rather engage government in constructive dialogue and consultations with a view to addressing the issues raised within the constraints of the national budget and the overall performance of the economy.

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