Workers in the textile industry are threatening to demonstrate over the failure of the anti-counterfeit taskforce set up by the government to deal with the proliferation of fake textiles on the market.
According to the workers, the government taskforce consisting of security personnel and other industry players has been inactive since the new administration took over in January this year.
They want the work of the taskforce re-activated as soon as possible or they hit the street in protest.
In a letter to the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander notifying him of the intended demonstration, the Concerned Textile Workers said: “the resolve to embark on the demonstration is to amplify our grievances for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to act swiftly by reconstituting the task force to check the illegal activities of some importers and traders to save our jobs.”
The Ministry of Trade and Industry established the Anti Textile Piracy Taskforce in 2010 to clamp down on the activities of fake textile dealers. The mandate of the taskforce is to arrest and prosecute persons involved in the smuggling and trade of counterfeit textiles. “As at now, the operations of the taskforce have stalled for no apparent reason and our union (Textiles, Garment and Leather Employees Union) has not been able to explain the circumstances,” the letter said.
The textile industry has over the years been hit by a number of challenges including the smuggling of textile prints into the country mainly from China, which sells at a cheaper price. There have also been concerns about the pirating of local designs; a situation the Ghana Federation of Labour has repeatedly said is an infringement of intellectual property, hence illegal.
In a letter dated 31st March 2017 to the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Concerned Textile Workers raised claimed the smuggling of fake textiles has increased over the last few weeks as the Easter Festivities approach. “We visited the markets and purchased some of the fake/imitated fabrics at ridiculously cheap prices which render our genuine local products unmarketable,” the letter signed by Ebenezer Asumadu and four other leaders of the Concerned Textile Workers said.
They are warning the government that efforts to expand the local textile industry will not materialise unless the problem with fake textiles is dealt with.
“It will be unwise to put money in local textiles manufacturing sector without first eradicating the causes of noncompetitiveness of the local products, specifically counterfeiting and smuggling, aside from the high cost of local products,” they said.
“Since the threat of losing our jobs continue to haunt us as workers, we appeal to you to allow the anti-textile piracy taskforce to resume operations without further delay in the interest of sustained functioning of the local textile industry to save our jobs,” the letter to the minister added.
The workers say the activities of their employers including the Ghana Textiles Manufacturing Company and Juapong Textiles will soon grind to a complete halt if nothing is done about the situation. “Our union tells us that attention of the Ministry has been drawn to this development but no action has been taken as the distressed manufacturing industry grind to a halt, resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs,” the letter said.
The government is meanwhile assuring the workers it will not allow the textile industry to collapses as it considers it an important sector. Chief Director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry Dawarnoba Baeka in a letter to the chairman of the Textiles, Garment and Leather Employees Union said: “The ministry has always worked closely with your union and other stakeholders to find solutions to challenges in the sector… “
“The Ministry attaches great importance to the textiles and garments sector because of its potential for jobs and wealth creation. Indeed, the sector is one of the key sectors of the Anchor Investment Programme under the new Government Industrial Transformation Agenda,” the letter added.
It would be recalled that late last year, textile manufacturing firm GTP laid off more than 130 workers over low revenues.
The local textile manufacturing sector has struggled to stay afloat over the years as a result of the above challenges. It employed more than 25,000 workers in the 1970s but now provides jobs to less than 2000 people.
The more than 130 million meters of fabric it produced has also been reduced to less than 30 million. This has resulted in the collapse of a number of textile manufacturing companies in Tema, Akosombo, and Juapong. Some of the sites which used to host such industries have been turned into warehouses and churches.