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Ghana: Labour groups protest increase in utility prices, taxes

Ghana: Labour groups protest increase in utility prices, taxes

Ghana

Thousands of public sector workers across Ghana joined a nationwide demonstration to protest recent hikes in fuel and utility prices.

Organised Labour, made up of the Trades Union Congress and eight other labour groups and associations had been pushing for a 50 percent increase in salary to help cushion the effects of the recent increase in utility tariff and taxes.

But government in a series of meetings with organised labour justified the increases saying that the tariff is to help fix the erratic power supply situation bedeviling the country.

Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, Kofi Asamoah, who read a petition on behalf of the demonstrating workers also called on government to scrap the new energy sector levy which has led to an almost 30 percent increase in prices of petroleum products.

Kofi Asamoah said Wednesday’s demonstration was intended “to bring home to government in a more forceful manner the difficulties and the desperate social and economic conditions the tariff increases and the new taxes and levies on petroleum products on our incomes have occasioned.”

“We firmly believe that a governance system in which taxation of the ordinary man and woman becomes an obsession is socially undemocratic and unacceptable,” he said adding that the current level of increases are unbearable for workers and businesses.

Hundreds of public sector workers gathered at the Black Star Square in Accra where they presented a petition to Employment and Labour Relations Minister, Haruna Iddrisu.

The workers however jeered as the employment minister addressed them after receiving the petition.

The Ghana government is expected to continue negotiations with the labour unions on Thursday. The outcome will determine if the group will go ahead with the threat to strike or return to work.

Background

The Ghana government recently introduced a petroleum sector levy which led to a 27 percent hike in the price of petroleum products despite a decline in crude oil prices on the world market.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), the agency responsible for reviewing the pricing of utilities in December last year also slapped a 59.2 percent increase on electricity tariff and 62.9 percent on water tariff.

Demonstration

The labour groups hit the streets of Accra and other major cities across Ghana Wednesday morning hoping their action will compel government to review its stance.

Most public schools were without teachers as the Ghana National Association of Teachers had served notice to its employer the Ghana Education Service that all its members will fully participate in Wednesday’s demonstration.

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The courts were also shut down Wednesday as the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) also issued a memo directing its staff across the country to abandon post and join the demonstration. Only the security personnel were at post.

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The demonstration is the first phase of a series of actions including strikes planned by organised labour to pressure government to reconsider the increase in tariffs and taxes.

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