Black Thursday: 24 Unions Join Street Protest, Minister Snubbed

Kofi Asamoah – TUC Boss
The much-touted nationwide industrial action and street protest under the aegis of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) will take off today, DAILY GUIDE can confirm, as the aggrieved workers have turned down last-minute appeal from the government.

The TUC has said that today’s protest themed, ‘We are Suffering Demonstration,’ will be an unprecedented affair, as it has asked thousands of its members across the 10 regions of the country to down their tools and pour onto the streets to protest what they term bad governance of the John Dramani Mahama administration, high cost of living and a badly deteriorated economy.

The new Employment and Labour Relations Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, had appealed to the labour unions to back down on their planned nationwide demonstration without success.

The nationwide strike would be heralded by a procession starting at the Obra Spot in Accra, through some principal streets in the capital. The protest would be replicated simultaneously nationwide, TUC boss, Kofi Asamoah, announced yesterday, adding that all the 18 affiliate bodies are taking part in the demonstration.

Mr. Asamoah asked ‘all industries and employers and all well-meaning Ghanaians feeling the pinch of the [harsh economic] situation to support and join this clarion call.’

‘Indeed this is good for democracy,’ a statement issued said.

The one-day demonstration against what organised labour is calling harsh economic conditions in the country will see shops and businesses closed throughout the day.

Commercial drivers under the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) have also announced their participation in the protest.

The GPRTU, in a statement, asked the members to park their vehicles and buses at home and hit the streets.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and several other labour groups have officially declared their intension to hit the streets today.

There are other unions not affiliated to the TUC but have indicated solidarity to the course of the nationwide protest.

The GMA has asked all doctors to stop attending to patients, except emergencies and in-patients.

According to an official statement from the GMA, doctors are also feeling the pinch of the economic hardships plaguing the country.

‘The members of the Ghana Medical Association are equally exposed to the current economic hardships in the country, such as astronomical fuel and utility price hikes, tax increases, job losses, high unemployment, the current poor state of the National Health Insurance Schemerising inflation and rapid depreciation of the cedi against the major international currencies,’ the statement, signed by the leadership of GMA and released on Wednesday, stated.

Deputy General Secretary of the GMA, Dr. Justice Yankson, said the association would join the demonstration to protest government’s failure to pay them their compensation.

‘Government has failed to pay us compensation and it also failed to even negotiate with us,’ he told Citi FM.

Dr. Yankson believes that Organised Labour’s demonstration would compel ‘government to appreciate the suffering the ordinary worker is going through.’

He further dismissed claims that the protest was politically motivated, adding that Ghanaian ‘workers are only exercising their democratic rights.’

‘We are using the tools as enshrined in our laws, we are not pundits, and we have not taken up arms or anything’

‘We just want to draw government’s attention so it will fix our problems for us. We elected government to fix our problems and that is why we are calling on government to ensure that things are done appropriately,’ he explained.

Pharmaceutical Society
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, also expressing solidarity, stated, ‘The Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) is encouraging its members to join the nationwide demonstration’

‘as a friend of the human race it is equally concerned about the worsening living conditions of all Ghanaians and is therefore committed to this protest and support this peaceful demonstration by all workers,’ the statement released on Wednesday and signed by James Ohemeng Kyei, the president of PHSG added.

The pharmacists would be protesting the threat to their operations caused by the rapidly depreciating local currency. ‘Pharmaceutical care is seriously challenged by the rapidly depreciation of the local currency against foreign currencies in the country and currently leading to shortage of essential medicines as importers and manufacturers cannot operate optimally,’ they complained.

Frantic Preparation
A visit by DAILY GUIDE to some public institutions across the capital saw frantic preparations for the demonstration anticipated to be a ‘massive’ event, as workers were seen sharing red bands and designing placards.

As at press time, sources close to the security agencies told this paper that the police and other security agencies were holed up in emergency meetings discussing how to contain the TUC-led protest. Initially, the police had tried to discourage the protest with the excuse that they did not have adequate resources to control the protesters.

Information picked up by DAILY GUIDE indicated that the government made last-minute overtures to the leadership of the TUC to convince their members to shelve the plans for today’s demonstration, but the leadership told them point-blank that  the demonstration ‘fever’ has already caught on like ‘wild fire’ and they could not do anything about it.

The demonstration tipped as a potential catalyst for a massive civil movement against the Mahama administration has sent shivers through the corridors of the Ghanaian presidency as frantic efforts were being deployed to torpedo the nationwide workers protest.

Operatives of the government have also tried to appeal to people’s sentiments by saying the demonstration should be halted since it coincides with the two-year anniversary of the death of President John Evans Atta Mills, Ghana’s first President to die in office.

Labour experts have warned that the TUC demonstration could bring the nation on its knees as productivity in key installations would virtually grind to a halt.

Ghana’s organised labour is almost one million workers strong.

Police Cold Feet
Earlier, the police had wanted to get the TUC to back down. The Acting Director of Public Affairs at the Ghana Police Service, DSP Cephas Arthur stated, ‘We will not be in the position to provide adequate protection for the demonstrators as well as other people who are going about their duties peacefully and so we suggested to them to hold the demonstration on a regional basis to enable the police to mobilise enough personnel to provide security and protection for the demonstration.’

But the TUC General Secretary, Kofi Asamoah, was quick to warn against any attempt to stop the TUC from its planned protest, saying, ‘It is important that nobody put any spook in the wheels of the determined workers who want to express their frustrations about the worsening socio-economic conditions in the country.’

‘We call on the Ghana Police Service to be professional and assist the protesters, by providing security on the day as it did during the Occupy Flagstaff House protest on July 1, 2014.  We all have a role to play in ensuring that Ghana works again,’ the Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRG) a pressure group spearheading Ghana’s Occupy movement warned the police.

By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran

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