MEMBERS of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) in the Brong Ahafo Region have added their voice to calls on the government to immediately suspend or review downward the recent increases in utility tariffs announced by the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC).
They also called on the PURC to negotiate the increases with all stakeholders including the ICU whose members had been adversely affected by the increment before coming out with any increment in future.
Members of the union, made up of workers from the formal and informal sectors of the economy including hairdressers, barbers and the self-employed, made the call at an emergency meeting organised by the Brong Ahafo Regional branch of the ICU in Sunyani to state their position on the recent utility tariff increases.
According to them, the recent increase in the prices of electricity and water bills had adversely eroded incomes of workers and the ordinary Ghanaian.
They added that apart from eroding incomes, the increase had also adversely affected industries, compelling some industries to shut down, a development that had worsened the unemployment situation in the country.
The workers at the meeting also resolved that if the government failed to respond positively to their demands by July 28, 2010, they would join their other colleagues for a nationwide protest.
They also implored the government to probe into the operations of the utility companies to curtail wastage and corruption.
Earlier in a welcoming address, Brother Ben Gayin, the Brong Ahafo Regional Officer of the ICU said the meeting was to discuss the effects of the increases and also the next line of action to take as all efforts by the leaders of the union to get the PURC to suspend the increase had not yielded the desired results.
“These increases in utility tariffs, apart from adversely affecting our scanty take-home pay which cannot take us home, will also adversely affect the profits of many industries,” he said.
Mr Gayin said the affected industries were threatening to close down and re-locate, reduce wages and salaries or freeze wages and salary negotiations, “meaning that we would work for years without pay increase while prices keep on increasing”.
Brother Gayin stated that it was the view of the ICU that utility prices should be increased but the PURC should hasten slowly and spread the increases gradually over the years, and also consult with all stakeholders including the ICU, but that was not the case.
The Regional Chairman of the ICU, Mr Albert Amoah Frimpong, for his part, said the increases in electricity and water tariffs were more than the 89 per cent and 36 per cent respectively, while the government had also withdrawn its subsidy on the utility tariffs, thereby passing the buck on the ordinary Ghanaian.
He said the National Executive Council (NEC) of the ICU at an emergency meeting in Accra recently on the utility tariffs downward increases, indicated that if the government failed to heed its call to immediately suspend or review the tariffs by July 28, 2010, the union would embark on nationwide demonstration to register its displeasure.