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General News Mon, 2 Sep 2019

Textile workers threaten to sue Gov’t over free uniform importation

The government, may have to explain in court, why it chose to import school uniforms from China at the expense of the local textile industry, if the threat by the Commission of Textile Workers, is anything to go by, as they have said they are weighing all options available which include dragging government to court.

The textile workers, say if information to the effect that government has given contract to a private individual is anything to go by, they would have to battle it out in court.

They also jabbed government, saying it action flies in the face of it so called Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.

“It is rhetoric and it is just a sharp contrast to the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda”.

Earlier this year, brother of the Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, was allegedly awarded a $350 million contract to supply all Junior High School (JHS) pupils with new school uniforms.

Ebenezer Opoku Prempeh, won the contract under EOP Fashion Limited, a company he registered on April 3, 2019.

The Commission’s comments, come in the wake of allegation of importation of material for the new uniforms introduced by the Ghana Education Service (GES). The red flags were first raised by the Textile Workers Union (TWU).

Reacting to the obvious unpalatable report, Communication Director for the Commission of Textile Workers; Kwame Anaman, said they are going to play their role as citizens by ensuring that the public become aware of the machinations and the unfair treatment being meted out to them by the Akufo-Addo-led administration.

Mr Anaman, who spoke to Accra-based Citi FM, said their hands are being twisted by the powers that be after government gave stimulus package to the Akosombo Textile Limited (ATL) to produce the newly introduced uniforms.

According to him, it makes no sense that the same government that gave this package to ATL,is allowing a private person to import these same uniforms.

He argued that it would be impossible for a local company to compete with imported textile, as mostly the cost involve is less than what is produced locally, because of it inferior nature.

“We will try all options available to us.Also, we will do a press conference, if we contact our lawyers and they think we have to pursue this one also in court, we will do those things. We want Ghanaians to know how unfair the government is treating us and how the government can twist our hands and give out stimulus packages and end up giving contract to outsiders”.

He continued “ATL was given a stimulus package to be able to produce this union only for these uniforms to be imported ……so the taxpayer’s money you have given them can go waste……. even if they produce how,they are going to sell it because the ones they have imported through illegal means,would be sold at a cheaper price”.

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Bulsa South Dr. Clement Apaak, has chided government on the same issue, saying it is hypocritical for the government to deprive Ghanaians of scarce jobs and rather offer it to foreigners.

According to Dr. Apaak, who is the Ranking Member on Education “One would expect that this opportunity would have been given to them an economy that is so tight with employment opportunities being so scarce with the volumes at stake not only would they employ additional labour but that additional income will certainly have a positive effect not just on them but the economy as a whole. You see, we must be very honest in pointing out and calling government out for double standard or if you like being hypocritical.

You can’t say that you are doing your best to create employment opportunities for the good people of this country and yet when there are obvious avenues through which the people can properly be engaged, you give those avenues to foreigners, because somebody is waiting to have a percentage cut”.

Also, the Minority Leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, speaking on the same station attributed the decline of the local textiles industry to government’s inaction and misplaced priorities.

Mr Iddrisu, a former Trade Minister, said the current government, had failed to safeguard local traders and the textile industry.

“The decline of the performance in the textile industry is largely a function of the inability of the government to protect local infant industry against the importation of textile into the country, against the dominance of our foreign textiles which are cheaper than those produced locally.”

Haruna Iddrisu, said he plans to query the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, on the matter.

“Government is not doing enough. They are misdirecting funds meant for these entities to undeserving entities… I will soon file a question for the Minister for Trade to share details of what the disbursement has been over the years.”

But the Ghana Education Service (GES) has asked the general public to disregard the claims by the TWU that, government had imported new school uniform for JHS.

According to GES, it has not awarded any contract to any local or foreign firm to bring the fabric into the country.

In a statement, the GES, said that the claims made by the textiles workers, were baseless and must be treated with the contempt it deserves.

“The attention of Management of the Ghana Education Service has been drawn to discussions in the media on alleged importation of school uniforms into the country by the Ghana Education Service. Management of GES wishes to make it clear that the story is baseless and has no merit whatsoever.”

“The GES wishes to state that it has not imported, neither has it contracted any individual, locally or internationally to bring in the new uniform for Junior High Schools”, GES noted.

Management of the GES reiterated its earlier position that the uniform is not compulsory and that it could be procured on the open market just like the existing ones.

“The Director-General urge parent to access these clothes from the open market as it has been the case with the current uniform. It must be noted that the school uniform is not compulsory. It will be phased out over a period and no student will be prevented from attending school when the 2019/2020academic year begins in September.”

General Secretary of the Textiles Workers Union, Abraham Koomson, in an interview said that the alleged importation defeats government’s message of creating jobs for the youth, especially when foreign firms are engaged in the production of the uniforms.

“It is difficult to understand why the government will encourage the importation of school uniform. This has never happened before. Government has never sanctioned the importation of school uniform. We are even fighting the piracy of African prints because that has been a problem which has virtually collapsed the local manufacturing industries. This is madness, we cannot understand. It’s madness. Is this the government who wants to encourage investors to create jobs to solve the unemployment in this country”, he asked.

The new uniform, which was introduced in April this year, has been met with criticism as some said it was a misplaced priority and an unnecessary economic burden on parents.The cost of the uniforms will be borne by parents though the government will cater to students in deprived areas in line with existing arrangements.

Source: theheraldghana.com
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