Organized labour has at last added its voice to the call on government by sections of the Ghanaian populace, to review downward the tax elements in the prices of petroleum products, to alleviate the hardships on the people.
Since the increases in the petroleum prices were announced, government officials have, in response to criticisms about the crippling effect on Ghanaians, stated that broad consultations were made. Labour had been mentioned as one of the groups consulted.
However, some of the statements being made by the labour leadership over the last few days sound very curious, and cannot go without questions. They have described as not accurate the impression being created that they were part of the decision to peg petroleum prices at the current levels. They want us to believe that they were not accomplices to the act. But didn't it take them too long to clear the air?
Both Mr. Kwasi Adu-Amankwaah of the TUC and Mr. Abraham Koomson of the Labour Forum, have indicated that they had believed all along that the prices of the products were being subsidized. They maintain that it was not until last Tuesday, March 29, that they were properly apprised of how the new petroleum prices were arrived at.
This revelation by the labour leadership is very disappointing, considering that as far back as 2003 when fuel prices were increased by 90%, the issue of the formula for full cost recovery had been raised. The TUC and its affiliates, being bodies that are supposed to be protecting the interests of hundreds of thousands of workers, should have been more proactive in getting such information rather than wait on government to brief them.
Not only should they have had this information through their own intelligence sources, they should as well have analyzed the likely impact, immediately after the announcement of the new prices was made.
The labour leadership has also admitted having misinformed its members, because they had all along thought that government was subsidizing petroleum prices. The claim that the leadership has now realized that what was termed 'subsidy' was just a fall in government revenue from petroleum is also very disappointing.
For a people that represent hundreds of thousands of workers to be relying on only information obviously put out by government or propagandists, without cross-checking, is not acceptable, and workers deserve better.
The current leadership of labour may have done very well in generally maintaining a harmonious labour front over the last few years. That goodwill that workers may have demonstrated must not be compromised.
If workers realized that their leaders had been feeding them with unreliable information, that would erode the confidence they have in them, and that could spell turbulence at their front.
For the TUC and its affiliate labour organizations not to be seen as compromising on the interests of workers, the leadership must put in place all necessary measures that would enable them operate independently, and not rely on rumours and hearsay.