Organised labour, led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has confirmed that it will embark on a nationwide demonstration on Wednesday, January 20 against economic hardship in the country.
The demonstration in Accra is expected to be replicated in all the regional capitals, according to the organisers.
“We call on all Ghanaians who believe in the constitutional provision that our welfare and happiness should be paramount in government policy are invited to join the demonstrations,” Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of the TUC, said on behalf of organised labour at a news conference in Accra yesterday.
The recent increment of prices of petroleum products, killer utility tariffs and the introduction of new taxes has rattled the TUC and other labour groups and that is the main reason they are embarking on the strike, a source said yesterday.
Labour is asking government to, among others, withdraw the Energy Sector Levy which they believe has resulted in an ‘astronomical’ and ‘unjustified’ increase in prices of petroleum products at a time the world market price for crude is at an all-time low.
The new Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) was passed in September 2015 to replace an old one that was in existence for about 15 years and it has made changes to the various tax types while introducing new taxes in sectors that were initially outside the tax net.
They are particularly incensed that the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) could authorise 59.2% increase in electricity and 67.2% for water at a combined rate of 126.4%.
At the news conference, Mr Asamoah said “all those who believe we cannot and we should not allow our politicians, whether in Parliament or the executive, to take us for granted and to impose all sorts of levies, taxes and fees and prices on us without recourse to our plight and economic circumstances should come out and join us.”
He said “with our mandate to defend working people, we have no option than to take our concerns to the streets as a first step, hoping that the government will listen.”
He said there was no relief for the formal sector worker who he said “already pays majority of the taxes used to run this country and suffers such punitive indirect taxes without commensurate increases in incomes or the basic public services that make this sacrifice worthwhile.”
Mr Asamoah said that industries and businesses including seamstresses, barbers, and commercial drivers “are reeling under the burden of increasing energy cost and workers and apprentices are being laid off as a result.”
“Sadly, our government decided to hide these increases from us, sneak it through Parliament with no genuine debate. This is undemocratic!
According to the TUC boss, even though the new tax regime had been passed into law, “this law is illegitimate.”
Failed Checks & Balances
The failure of the checks and balances system meant to protect citizens and the silence of our MPs is too deafening and most disappointing. As we have said, that is what happens when the IMF holds the stick; they subvert all democratic processes.”
He said that the Energy Sector Levies Act which had occasioned very high and unjustified increase in fuel prices “is a desperate and insensitive attempt by the government to squeeze everything out of the average Ghanaian.”
“The act flies in the face of the so-called deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector, which is intended to get the government out of the way when it comes to pricing of petroleum products,” the TUC boss said.
“Our actions are informed by the simple fact that in our view, government has lost touch with the economic and social realities of Ghana and Ghanaians,” he said, adding, “and that’s what happens to every government and country that leaves its economic and social policies to the dictate of the IMF.”
“This year, government raised public sector wages by 10%. With inflation at near 17%, there is an expected 7% decline in public sector earnings,” he further stated, adding that “for workers in the private sector, the prolonged energy crisis has meant that most workers have either lost their jobs or are on the verge of doing so.”
By William Yaw Owusu