Organized labour, led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), will hit the streets across the country today to demonstrate against the economic hardship as planned.
It follows the rejection of a passionate appeal by Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, to rescind the decision.
The minister had said that it would be unfair to demonstrate while negotiations were still underway.
“Embarking on such actions means holding a gun to my head while we are still talking,” he said.
The recent increases in the prices of petroleum products, killer utility tariffs and the introduction of new taxes have rattled the TUC and other labour groups; and have therefore decided to show their grievances through street protests. Strikes are said to be the next line of action if the demonstration does not yield any dividends.
Labour is asking government to among other things, withdraw the Energy Sector Levy which it believes has resulted in an ‘astronomical’ and ‘unjustified’ increases in the 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 on sectors that were initially outside the tax net.
The workers are also particularly incensed that the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) could authorize 59.2% increase on electricity tariff and 67.2% on water at a combined rate of 126.4%.
The Employment Minister has said that the government was willing to revise the killer utility tariffs downwards but indicated that it was not in any position to review the newly-introduced energy sector levy.
“The financial situation of the ECG and the VRA is unhealthy. The procurement of crude will not be possible if the institutions are not assured of consistent source of funding,” he asserted.
The Police Administration has already given the go-ahead for the demonstration to be staged and the workers are said to have vowed to pour onto the streets in their numbers to show their displeasure about the economic condition of the country.
Meanwhile, organized labour has warned political parties to stay away from infiltrating their protest march.
“We would like to emphasize that the demonstration is for workers. We therefore advise all political parties to stay away from the demonstration,” a statement signed by the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, Kofi Asamoah, has warned said.
“We assure all working people of Ghana that all is set for a peaceful nationwide demonstration to express our outrage with the insensitive increases in taxes, levies and utility tariffs. All workers in both formal and informal sectors are expected to participate fully in the demonstration,” the group enjoined in the statement.
In Accra, the demonstration will begin at the Obra Spot near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle at 7: 30 am prompt.
ASP Afia Tenge, Greater Accra Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Police Service, said after a close-door meeting on Monday that the police were able to discuss with the leadership of the workers the routes to be used by the demonstrators.
“Everything went very smooth. The police do not have any problem with what the workers are seeking to do. We have agreed on the routes they are to take,” she said via a telephone interview.
The demonstration in Accra is expected to be replicated in all the regional capitals, according to the organizers.
Already, the courts are expected to close for business today because the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG), which forms an integral part of organized labour, is asking its members to join the protest march.
A statement titled, ‘Demonstration by organized labour,’ issued in Accra yesterday and signed by Derrick Annan, General Secretary of JUSAG, said the leadership of the association was asking members to join the demonstration in compliance with the stance declared by organized labour.
The statement said, “On Wednesday, 20th January, 2016, all members of JUSAG shall join the nationwide demonstration at their respective regions. Members are to put on our JUSAG lacoste and red arm bands.”
By William Yaw Owusu