TUC Warns Against Higher Tariffs

The Steering Committee of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on the government to review the recent increases in road tolls and the proposed increases in utility tariffs in order to alleviate the plight of workers. It observed that the increases in road tolls had greatly affected the living conditions of workers nationwide, as transport owners had passed on the upward adjustment to passengers, adding that the proposed increases in utility tariffs would further worsen the “stressful living conditions" of workers. "We wish to caution in this respect that there is only so much that workers can take. As a government that professes to be motivated by social democratic principles, we expect that government policy should be informed by more credible and visible initiatives that protect working people and the poor and marginalised from the strains of the economy," the TUC said in a statement after its 54th Steering Committee meeting. The statement, which was signed by its Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Asamoah, said, "While government may have inherited some challenges, the Steering Committee is of the view that the test of successful leadership is the ability to address effectively such challenges." It said while acknowledging the need for increases in road tolls, it found it difficult to "appreciate" the extent of the adjustment, in some cases representing over 900 per cent. The statement particularly expressed concern over the proposed increases in electricity tariffs, the rising cost of living and measures to manage resources from the country's oil find for the benefit of all Ghanaians. On the rising cost of living in the country, it said although statistical data suggested a fall in the inflation rate, it did not mean that the cost of living had not been rising, contending that the rate at which the cost of living had been rising had relatively reduced and for workers the reality was that the cost of living was currently intolerable and continued to rise. It said resolving the financial difficulties facing the utility services should provoke "minimum social unrest" and that could be achieved through transparency and consultation. "The authorities should make full disclosure of the facts and figures so that collectively we can arrive at decisions that are reasonable and effective and have the support of Ghanaians," it stated. On the country's oil find, it said in spite of assurances from the government of prudent utilization of oil resources, the TUC was of the view that the process had not been characterised by enough transparency and consultation. "It is, indeed, a sad commentary on how we regard ourselves that even donor countries and their officials are more informed of the latest development in this sphere than citizens. What is more worrying is that to date there is no new overarching regulatory framework which is necessary for the effectual regulation of this challenging industry," it said. It observed that Ghana was clearly ill-prepared for oil production and demanded a basic regulatory framework to be initiated through open engagement with all stakeholders, as well as the publication by government of all oil contracts for Ghanaians to know what had been negotiated on their behalf. The statement called for an all-inclusive and multi-party approach to the establishment of committees or commissions in respect of the oil industry, while urging wide publicity on the Right to Information Bill, which is currently in Parliament, to enable Ghanaians to appreciate the contents before its passage into law.