Workers to wear red armbands from today (October 22, 2013) Front page

Organised labour has called on all its members nationwide to put on red armbands and fly red flags at their various workplaces from today.

The decision to wear red bands, instead of embarking on a strike, follows an appeal by President John Dramani Mahama to organised labour to exercise restraint while the technical committee established to review tariff hikes submits its report.

Organised labour arrived at the decision at a marathon meeting in Accra yesterday to deliberate on developments on its engagement on what it described as astronomical utility tariff increases.

The softening of the position of labour on the tariffs means that the potential nationwide strike which would have crippled productivity in the public sector has been put on hold.

The technical committee, which was set up by the government to review the recent increment in utility tariffs, is expected to present its preliminary report this week.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) had, on October 8, 2013, given the government and the PURC a 10-day ultimatum to review downwards the 52 per cent increment in water and 78.9 per cent in electricity tariffs or it would embark on a strike.

The increments fell short of the 166 per cent and the 112 per cent requested by the electricity and water providers, respectively. There has not been any major adjustment in water and electricity tariffs since June 1, 2010.

But at the press conference to crown a marathon meeting of the labour unions, Mr Kofi Asamoah, the Secretary General of the TUC, said the meeting had considered the appeal by President Mahama to the TUC “to exercise restraint while the technical committee submits its report in one week”.

“We have a feedback of the work of the technical committee through our members and on the basis of that we decided to acknowledge the appeal made by the President,” he said.

Attended by the leadership of labour unions, including the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), the Polytechnic Administrators Association of Ghana (PAAG), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), and the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG), the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, discussed the way forward before the committee submitted its report.

“We sincerely  express  our appreciation to all workers of Ghana for their support in this struggle. We will continue to count on their support for the struggle to ensure that utility tariff levels are brought to what ordinary working people can contain,” Mr Asamoah said at the press conference.

He said the red armbands were “an indication of our seriousness in the matter and as a way of waiting for the committee to submit its report”.

“We are committed to the technical committee’s work; we are part of the committee. It is our expectation that the committee’s work, when presented to the government, the conclusions will meet the concerns we have … the high level utility tariff … that is why we say we are unable to pay. We are asking for the staggering of the tariffs,” he said.

Prior to issuing the ultimatum, the TUC said the PURC, acting under the influence of the government, had failed to implement an agreement reached by all stakeholders three years ago to increase utility tariffs on a graduated manner to minimise the impact on consumers.

This is not the first time the TUC has used this tactics to force the PURC to reduce utility tariffs considered to be on the high side.

In May 2010, the PURC announced an 89 per cent and a 36 per cent increase for electricity and water, respectively, but the TUC, breathing down heavily on the government, forced a downward review.

Apart from labour, industry and employers have decried the new tariffs, describing them as very high and a hindrance to business growth.

Writer’s email:seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh

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