At a crunch negotiation meeting between representatives of the government and Organsied Labour, the government stuck to its guns, stating that a withdrawal of the levy was out of the question.
The meeting followed Organised Labour’s threat to embark on a series of strikes over what it described as “astronomical and unjustified” energy sector levy and hikes in utility prices.
Yesterday’s meeting, held at the Flagstaff House in Accra, as they expected the government to back down, did not yield much result, as both sides took entrenched positions.
Haruna Iddrisu, Employment and Labour Relations Minister, who led government’s team, told The Ghanaian Times during a break, that “withdrawing the Energy Sector Levy would be highly difficult, if not impossible.”
A source at the meeting told The Ghanaian Times that the government team rather opted to consider proposals from Labour towards cushioning workers against the price hikes, saying it included considerations for base pay increase or Cost of Living Allowance.
According to the source, the government was prepared to consider proposals for reviews of the utility tariffs without hurting revenues.
However, it was made clear that the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) would decide on what review level could be accommodated.
As of the time of going to press, the government’s position had not changed, while Organised Labour tried to force their way through, leading to an inconclusive meeting.
The government’s team included John Jinapor, Deputy Minister of Power and Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Minister of State at the Presidency, as well as representatives of VRA and ECG, while the Organised Labour team was led by Kofi Asamoah, Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress, backed by the heads of the various unions.
Following the introduction of the Energy Sector Levy and the utility tariff hikes, Organised Labour gave the government up to Wednesday, January 13, to reduce the tariffs and withdraw the levy, without which Labour would embark on a nationwide strike.
“If these demands are not met by the said date, Organised Labour would unleash series of nationwide actions on the government,” it warned in its statement.
The statement was jointly signed by Mr. Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress; Solomon Kotei, General Secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, Albert Yamoah, Ghana Federation of Labour; Vida Sapabil, Coalition of Concerned Teachers’, and Kojo W. Krakani of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana.
Others are Derrick Annan, Judicial Services Association of Ghana; Justice Yankson of the Ghana Medical Association; M.V.V.K. Demenya, Ghana National Association of Teachers; Kwaku Asante-Krobea, Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association; and Christian O. Odue of the National Association of Graduate Teachers.
The Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission, in November last year, increased electricity and water tariffs by 59.2 per cent and 67.2 per cent respectively for residential consumers, prompting anger from the public including Organised Labour.
An energy sector levy also took effect on New Year’s Day January 1, culminating in the increase in prices of petroleum products by between 18 and 27 per cent.
By Edmund Mingle