Striking tanker drivers, police clash in Tema … 3 arrested, 3 injured

Members of the union forming a human barrier to prevent gas trucks from loading at TOR. Photos. Blay Gibbah

Members of the union forming a human barrier to prevent gas trucks from loading at TOR. Photos. Blay Gibbah

Members of the Ghana National Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union (GNPTDU) yesterday commenced a sit down strike to compel the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) to address underground short delivery at filling stations.

 

For close to five hours, members of the union singing war songs refused to load fuel or prevented other gas trucks from loading at Tema Oil Refinery, Fuel Trade, Chase Oil, Cyrus Oil, APD (Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation) and Blue Ocean fuel depots all in Tema, prompting the police to intervene, by arresting four of their members at TOR.

 

The situation nearly turned fatal when police shot in the air (teargas) to disperse the crowd. An unidentified member of the union escaped death narrowly when he was knocked down by a vehicle as he crossed the road to flee for his life.

 

On the reasons for the strike action, the union claimed some filling stations gave their members a raw deal by asking them to pay for shortages that they suspected came about due to defects such as leakages or slumping of a part of underground tanks.

 

They explained that whereas their trucks were calibrated and certified every six months by NPA and other authorised agencies to ensure they conformed to standards underground tanks were not subjected to the same standards thus creating disparities in measurements.

 

The chairman of GNPTDU, George Nyaunu, said  after loading fuel at depots oil marketing company representatives take measurements of the quantity, density and temperature, after which the compartments were sealed and on reaching the discharging bay similar measurement were taken by the Filling Station Manager before discharging.

 

He said, unfortunately, in many cases when the fuel was discharged the underground measurement was used to determine the quantity leading to shortages which had to be paid for by the drivers.

 

Mr  Nyaunu also contended that some tanker owners had refused to implement new driver and mate emoluments agreed between the Tanker Owners Union, GNPTDU and NPA, at a meeting on September 4, 2017.  He said they had written to the Minister of Energy since May 8, but nothing had been done to resolve the problems.

 

He said after waiting for a year without any concrete action to redress their concerns they decided to undertake the strike action.

 

Interestingly, while addressing the members of the union, Mr  Nyaunu had a call to go to attend a meeting at the NPA head office but the union members prevented him from going by seizing his mobile phone and threatening to deflate his car tyres if he attempted to leave.

 

The union members recalled that in times past, whenever they planned to undertake industrial action to resolve issues affecting their livelihood, the NPA would invite few of their executives for discussion and that would be the end of the matter.

 

“We have been cheated for too long, this time the NPA must meet us at TOR,” they insisted.

Some of them who did not see why they should be penalised by filling stations for the occurrence of underground leakages or evaporation of fuel due to increase in temperature called on the authorities concerned to investigate and address their concerns.

 

At the time of going to press, calm had been restored at TOR and gas trucks were loading but the members of GNPTDU had abandoned their trucks at the park.

 

The union has about 4,000 members across the country.

 

Meanwhile,  Ken Afedzi reports that there was pandemonium at the forecourt of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) on Monday when the police clashed with members of the Tanker Drivers Association of Ghana during a protest against unpaid salaries by the tanker owners.

 

The protest was peaceful until the drivers of liquefied petroleum products prevented gas tanker drivers who had no such grievance and so did not take part in the exercise, from entering the loading yard of the TOR to load their products.

 

Few police personnel who were present and overwhelmed by the agitated crowd called for reinforcement who started firing gun shots and tear gas when they arrived.

 

Three persons sustained injuries from a stray rubber bullets, whereas three others were also arrested.

 

Head of Tema Regional Police Public Relations Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Joseph Benefo Darkwa  who was at the scene said the police had come to maintain peace and order but the tanker drivers refused to comply with the orders from the police which resulted in the clash.

 

He said the arrested persons would be investigated and the law allowed to take its course.

 

Meanwhile, the Public Affairs Manager of the TOR, Dr  Kingsley Antwi-Boasiako dissociated the TOR from the noisy disorder, saying, that TOR had no issue with the tanker drivers.

 

Chairman of the Tanker Drivers Association, George Nyaunu condemned the approach by the reinforcement team when they arrived, saying, that it was a peaceful demonstration which was not intended to escalate into violence but to press home their demands from the tanker owners.

 

He said the police could have used a softer approach such as dialogue to initiate peace and if that failed before they could throw tear gas to disperse the crowd.

 

He said the leadership of the Tanker drivers, Tanker owners and relevant stakeholders would meet to address the situation.

FROM GODFRED BLAY GIBBAH, TEMA

 

 

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