Picked The Wrong Fight, Comrades By Tarzan

If Ghana’s organised Labour decides to go on a demonstration (not STRIKE) against the wanton abuse and plundering of Ghana’s public purse and the Government’s penchant for “fire-fighting” to tackle industrial relations, I will be at the forefront of the mobilization of the masses and carrying the biggest placard at the head of the pack on the day. And before you holler about another “toono” claim by Tarzan, please cast your minds back (or ask your parents if too young) about the genesis and inspiration behind the biggest demonstrations organised in Africa outside of Egypt, namely Kumepreko and the other nine ”preko” marches of 1995. The abysmal and pitiable failure of the one demonstration against the electricity tariffs must convince us all that this is not the subject that is taking centre stage in list of priorities for the ordinary Ghanaian. That the Labour front itself is split as to the merits and emphasis of the discourse on utility tariffs, is further proof that the TUC and the usual suspects of unions who have reacted in pavlovian (knee-jerk) support of the strike call are wrong, wrong and wrong again. Since my last take on the tariff matter, the price of candle has jumped up to 40 pesewas a stick (33% in less than one month and who is talking about gradual increases). The significance of this gargantuan increase in the base source of lighting for the poorest and most down-trodden of our people is the cost of candle can now light up 120 CFL bulbs of 20 W for 1 hour for the privileged Ghanaian enjoying electricity. Put another way, for the ‘chamber and hall’ tenant with 4 bulbs, that is 30 hours of lighting, about six full days at 5 hours a night. When the NCA finally woke up to its responsibilities to us and published the rates charged to us by the mobile companies, it confirmed that we pay an average of 10 pesewas for every minute we chat on our mobile phones. Even if the least talkative Ghanaian talks for only 10 mins a day, that is GHS 1 .00. Wait for this one oooh, that is 7 x the cost of one unit of lifeline power, 2,5 x the cost of one stick of candle, or 300 CFL bulbs lit up for 1 hour or 60 days of 5 bulbs a night. Let me rub salt into the wounds of the spoilt brat comrades. We have six foreign owned companies in Ghana offering some of the poorest quality of service for mobile phone telephony. The only competition they are engaged in is to see which one can give the poorest and most unreliable service. So bad are things that portability has turned to mean having to have a separate phone line for each service provider so you can get a shade better service to your contacts with phone numbers on the same network. Why has organised labour not turned its ‘big guns’ on the mobile companies? Simple really! They are privately-owned and do as they please despite the powers and public funds extended on the NCA. By contrast the power and water utilities are “Aban” owned, every Ghanaian living everywhere believes that not only must the service be provided as a basic human right (correct), it must be done at no cost or at highly subsidized cost (wrong), never mind the overwhelming evidence that the alternative available to the most deprived and even the served during “Dum so Dum so” is inordinately expensive and of much poorer quality. Let me move beyond playing salesman for the Government , PURC, ECG and NED for now, but serve notice, like FU Manchu, I shall I shall return with a vengeance to deal with them on the matter of the ‘419 backdating of tariffs and the very poor quality of the service. My offer to lead a demonstration and not a strike was deliberate. It is absolutely important for each and every one of us in this country to protect the constitution of the 4th Republic of Ghana (we do not need a 5th Republic). This means everything that is done in pursuit of the rights and freedoms granted to each and every one of us, must be done within the LAWS prescribed by the constitution and in an ORDERLY and non-chaotic manner. Our constitution grants workers the right to free association and avenues to express their views and even where necessary withdraw their labour at the time when it would put the maximum pressure on the employee and also cause the most discomfort to beneficiaries of their services (otherwise there is no point in going on strike). As a former member of the International Marxist Group of the 1970s (dismissed as “Trots”), I am fully in support of the workers and their rights. My beef with organised labour, TUC and all the assorted unions who have been going on strike is that striking is a measure of last resort and must be indulged in only and after the prescribed rules of engagement have been followed. More importantly, strikes must be used as instruments for the strict and sole pursuit of legitimate labour issues only. Strikes must not and can never be used as tool for the pursuit of general political aims or other grievances which have nothing to do with the protection of the specific workplace rights and conditions of work of the membership of the specific unions. Yes, I do understand and appreciate the deceitful and cowardly way in which those we have entrusted with the power to govern find every excuse to run away from doing what is right and what they sign on to until and unless the workers resort to industrial action. Otherwise how come the two most important facilitators of our life’s fortunes; Teachers who give us the start in education, and nurses, who assist to prevent a premature reunion with our Makers, have not been paid for nearly 2 years? The answer is that most of the rulers have alleviated their poverties from our public purse and therefore are able to take care of their wards education in private schools which charge huge fees so they pay their teachers much better. Really , wont organise Labour be better focused if they organised a demonstration in solidarity with all of the unpaid teachers, nurses, GYEEDA trainees, all every public servant who has sweated and toiled to give service to the poor and trodden of our society and is unable to have shelter, east, pay for candles and the tro-tro to go to work . Or more to the point and much nearer home, why has organised labour not directed their ire at the impacts of the tariff increases on the security of the jobs of their members and the inimical dampener on the prospects of creating more jobs for the millions of unemployed young people of Ghana? This is the nub of the tussle between the TUC and Comrade Abraham Koomson. In Ghana we talk from our mouths and act from our rears. We espouse value-added wealth creation and then charge the wealth creators much much more for utilities than those of us who just use the power to watch soap operas whilst we drink chilled beer (including non-alcoholic). Whilst I am at it, has anyone stopped to think of how much the poorest people who don’t get bussed to work have to pay for tro-tro? My housekeeper pays GHs 2.40 per day to get to and from work and where organised labour to go on illegal strike in her cause is As the mines and other wealth creators begin to lay off workers because of the burdens of over-taxation and unaffordable utility prices, our government, the political opposition and organised labour are fiddling with our freedoms and democratic dispensation whilst this country moves inexorably towards yet liberation by another false Messiah. My comrades have a lot to complain about the disaster falling us in Ghana. However, electing to go on an inappropriate strike for very cheap utility costs is, I am afraid, picking the wrong fight. Please recalibrate and focus on the Government’s abject failure to stop chopping our money “waa waa” when it should be using it to pay teachers, nurses and feeding starving school children. Charles Wereko-Brobby CHIEF POLICY ANALYST, Ghana Institute for Public Policy Options, GIPPO Email: [email protected]