The streets of Tamale in the Northern Region virtually went red when organized labour embarked on a nationwide protest against the recent increases in utility tariffs and the energy sector levies.
About 1,200 workers took over the streets of Tamale causing vehicular traffic in the metropolis. Some of them carried placards with inscriptions: “Reduce Tax Burden,” “Do you really care Mr. president?” “Why this killer tax?” “Be sensitive to the people,” “Our businesses are collapsing” and “Government, have a listening ear.”
In December 2015 the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) announced a 59.2 percent increase in electricity tariffs and 67.2 percent in water tariffs. It was these and other things that incensed organised labour to organize a nationwide demonstration yesterday.
Demostraters moving towards the Regional Coordinating Council
Acting Regional Chairman of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Ibrahim Sule, who spoke to DAILY GUIDE, said the group set up by government to work out an amicable solution had failed to produce satisfactory results, indicating that government remains adamant to the demands of workers.
According to Ibrahim Sule, “We are aware of the stick the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is holding over your government following Extended Credit Facility (ECF); the IMF is doing everything to convince government that these increases are necessary but organized labour is drawing government’s attention to the social and political implications of such actions that are completely divorced from the realities facing most Ghanaians in the country.”
He indicated that IMF policies have never delivered prosperity to any country anywhere in the world, saying the evidence of negative effects of IMF programmes is overwhelming.
Mr Sule explained that the demonstration was intended to drum home to government in a more forceful manner, the difficulties and the desperate social and economic conditions the utility tariff increases and the new levies and taxes on petroleum and on incomes have occasioned.
Organized labour, he said, was not challenging the need for some increases in utility tariffs but the current situation of Ghanaians, including the fact that public sector salaries went up by only 10 percent did not favour that now.
The position of organized labour is for government to reduce the utility tariffs from the current levels to 50 percent.
Additionally, “government should withdraw the Energy Sector Levies Act 2015 (Act 899) which has occasioned very steep increases in petroleum prices at a time when crude oil prices are tumbling on the international market and exchange rate of the Ghana cedi appears stable.
Mr. A.B.A. Fuseini, Deputy Northern Regional Minister who received the petition on behalf of the Regional Minister at the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC), said the president, John Dramani Mahama, would listen to the concerns of the workers, adding that government and organized labour would have sit at a round table to negotiate.
FROM Eric Kombat, Tamale