Posted: Thursday 6th February 2014 at 8:42 am

Review salaries upwards to cushion workers — TUC

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The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on the government to significantly adjust wages upwards to cushion workers against the current economic hardships.

It said workers had been stretched to the limit, adding, “We cannot contain any further burden imposed on workers due to economic mismanagement.”

It, therefore, called on the government to consider its proposal for an upward adjustment of the national daily minimum wage without further delay.

The TUC made the call in a statement on the economy signed by its Secretary General, Mr Kofi Asamoah, and issued in Accra yesterday.

“Once consultation on the national minimum wage was concluded, then negotiations for a review of the base pay and relativity on the Single Spine Salary Structure would commence,” it said.

Reviewing the economic situation, the TUC said  the economic framework over the past 30 years had been exacerbated by pervasive corruption, cronyism, incompetence and extreme partisanship.  The issues 

“The economic indicators, as robust as we are told they are, have failed to make any significant impact in the lives of Ghanaians. Good jobs are disappearing faster than they are being created, even as the economy registers what is claimed to be ‘impressive’ growth rates,” the TUC said.

It explained that incomes  were falling in real terms, as inflation was on the rise, while trade deficits were growing at an alarming rate, as imports saturated and Ghana continued to export its natural resources in raw form.

Describing the national debt as “ballooned and continues to soar” and the cedi as being in a “slaughterhouse”, having fallen in value against the international currencies, the union indicated that the government, out of desperation, had resorted to increases in VAT and road tolls. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the government had increased VAT, abolished fuel subsides and allowances to teacher and nursing trainees, the union said public services were still deteriorating, many schools were still operating at the margins and hospitals had been stretched to the limit.

It said it was unfortunate that the dismal economic performance had occurred at a time when additional resources were coming from the commercial production of oil which had added about half a billion dollars annually to the national purse since 2011. Oil revenue

The union said it was gravely concerned “that the government and its agencies are not efficiently managing oil resources for the benefit of Ghanaians”.

For instance, it said, in 2012, GH¢232,403,269 out of the oil revenue was committed to road infrastructure but “we are yet to be told exactly which roads the funds were applied to improve”.

Again, it said, in 2012, while GH¢72,471,824 (14%) was committed to agricultural modernisation, we used GH¢111,959,738 for so-called capacity building. 

In its 2012 annual report, the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), the committee charged with monitoring compliance with the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, called on the government to indicate how the funding for capacity building was utilised. 

“We still hold the view that the economic and social challenges that we face as a country are rooted in the nature of economic policies and the manner in which we have chosen to conduct national affairs. 

“The economic woes we are facing can be attributed to the hands-off neo-liberal economic policies and failure on the part of the leadership to do the right things for the country.  

“The policy of unbridled trade liberalisation or more appropriately import liberalisation has compelled us, as a nation, to live virtually on imports.

 “We import practically everything, as the manufacturing sector gradually, but surely, grinds to a halt. Our increasing appetite for imports means that our demand for foreign currencies, particularly the US dollar, is growing exponentially. 

“More than two-thirds of our export revenues are generated from gold, cocoa, oil and timber. And we continue to export these in their raw forms, earning very little. 

“Policy makers have failed to address the monumental challenges that confront domestic industry, compelling many exporters to convert their factories into warehouses as they join the lucrative import trade,” the TUC declared.   Short-term solutions

Admitting the fact that there were no easy solutions to the current situation, the union said the country needed immediate short-term remedial measures to ameliorate the plight of Ghanaians.

Providing solutions to the problems confronting the nation, it said it was important that the government rolled back some of the many taxes it had imposed on the people, including the downward review of charges and fees. 

It suggested to the government to consider re-introducing subsidies on utilities and fuel because the rate at which it was raising fuel prices and utilities was neither sustainable nor socially desirable for the country. 

Furthermore, the union was of the view that  the government should check and rid itself of corruption and corrupt elements to ensure that its services and programmes reached their intended beneficiaries in a timely manner.  Long-term solutions 

For a long-term solution, the TUC proposed a radical overhaul of the economic and social policies of the country.

For instance, it said there was the need to strengthen the state and its agencies to allow for effective conduct of government and state policies and programmes.

It said economic policies must emphasise the centrality of adding value to natural resources and being able, as a country, to produce some of the basic necessities of life. 

“We cannot make any headway in reducing poverty and improving living conditions by living on imports. We need policies and programmes that reward domestic production and penalise imports,” it stated.

It said it was also crucial for the country to offer unalloyed support to Ghanaian businesses.

“State power must be leveraged to promote domestic industry. The fruitless attempt to destroy businesses perceived to be politically unfriendly must end,“ it said.

The TUC also underscored the need for a review of our capital accounts and external payment system.

“Ghana cannot afford to continue to allow foreigners and foreign-owned companies to transfer any amount of foreign currency out of the country. The Americans and the Chinese, with all their economic might, do not allow that,” it said.

 It further suggested to the government to initiate a national dialogue on the economy to tap into the best brains and ideas on the way forward for our country.

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