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Gov’t begs labour over demo; calls for more talks 

Haruna Iddrisu, Labour Minister

With barely 48 hours to Organised Labour’s nationwide demonstration against increased taxes and increases in utility tariffs, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, has reiterated his appeal to the group, to return to the negotiation table.

Organised Labour has declared a nationwide demonstration on Wednesday after talks with government for a downward review of utility tariffs and the newly introduced taxes on petroleum products, ended a deadlock.

Organised Labour has among other things called for the withdrawal of the energy sector levy that has heightened the price of petroleum products, insisting there is no justification for the increase.
But the Minister has indicated that it will be very difficult for government to withdraw the levy.

According to him, such a decision will throw the country’s economy off balance.

“No government will take pleasure in inflicting pain or harsh or difficult or painful policies on its people; but these decisions are in the best national interest going forward, particularly in respect of the energy sector levy; and I have accordingly conveyed that to Organised Labour that it will be difficult if not impossible, to consider a review of that particular legislation,” the Minister said.

Speaking at a press briefing, Haruna Iddrisu said government is willing to accommodate some of the concerns of Organised Labour and urged them to collaborate with government as it takes measures to address their concerns.

“I want to make a passionate appeal to Organised Labour to continue to dialogue with the government of Ghana while negotiations continue.”

The Minister however expressed displeasure about Organised Labour’s decision to embark on a nationwide demonstration while negotiations on the increases in utility tariffs are ongoing.

“At the last negotiation meeting, I conveyed on behalf of government a commitment to examine the PURC adjusted tariffs and to convey on the basis of numbers to Organised Labour that which government may be able to absorb, in the event that the PURC can do a downward review of that.”

“Organised Labour has asked the government to review the PURC tariffs down to 50 percent. That is where we are in the course of the negotiations and that is what displeases me personally about their intended declared action to proceed on a demonstration and strike while negotiations are ongoing…That is not a fair practice.”

He explained that although a downward review of prices might adversely affect government, it will still take measures to ensure that the newly introduced prices are revised.

“Even if we were to adjust the price from 59 to 54 percent, government will be required to raise an additional 350 million Ghana cedis to support it because this has been conveyed to the independent power producers. If we were to bring it down from 59% to about 52%, government would have to look for additional 500 million to support and cushion the differences; but notwithstanding, government is willing to accommodate a certain downward adjustment and review of the PURC levies.”

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