Sunyani workers give government ultimatum on fuel subsidy

The Sunyani Municipal Council of Labour has given the government up to the end of January 2012 to re-introduce the fuel subsidy that has been withdrawn, failure of which workers would be compelled to advice  themselves.

The workers took the decision in a resolution at an emergency meeting held at the VAG Hall in Sunyani on Tuesday under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The meeting was part of a nation-wide agenda to assess the position of unionized members regarding the stance of the Congress on the increases in the prices of petroleum products as announced by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) on December 28 last year.

It was participated by all the member unions of the Congress and attended by Mr. Pius Quainoo, General Secretary of the Construction and Building Material Workers Union, as well as Ms. Teresa Abuga, head of Women’s Desk and deputy head of the Organisation Department of the Congress in Accra.

The workers’ resolution also cautioned government and its functionaries to minimize the use of fuel with regards to their movements and called for the institution of a living wage for workers.

The workers asked the utility agencies to increase their tariffs before the Government/TUC Tripartite negotiations for new salaries in order to avoid the eroding of any percentage increase of salaries, “as the case is at the moment”.

Addressing the workers earlier, Mr. Quainoo noted that since time immemorial petroleum pricing had always been a contentious issue in the country.

“The prices of petroleum products, namely petrol, diesel and liquid petroleum gas have always been determined by balancing what is acceptable to the population with what will not cripple the economy”, he said.

The general secretary recounted the nation embarked on a deregulation process in 1996, a process for publishing and applying an automatic adjustment formula for pricing petroleum products to ensure full cost recovery and which was completed in 2001.

In October 2005, he said the deregulation of the petroleum sector was pushed further with the establishment of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) to replace the National Petroleum Tender Board to monitor and publish import parity cost refined petroleum products in the country based on a transparent pricing formula.

Mr. Quainoo stated that in October, 2009, the NPA announced that it would consider product price adjustments if crude prices continued to increase, stressing that the main factors affecting petroleum products pricing in the country were crude oil prices, the exchange rate, taxes and levies and margins.

He said in spite of all the “glorious administrative promises and plans” about fuel for the citizenry, the nation continued to suffer simply because most of the plans continue to fail to work to perfection.

“Politicians may claim that petroleum price subsidization does hurt the poor more than it supports them. They may argue that it has a big toll on government finances but without an effective alternative intervention such as those that exist in the developed countries where the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are located, our citizens are made poorer”, he said.

Mr. Quainoo said until that was done, social and political tensions would rise and that “The Ghana TUC calls on the Government not to hide behind the NPA but to restore the subsidies on petroleum products.

“The demand for a living wage should be prioritized to meet the full cost of living in Ghana”, he stated, stressing that the two demands were non-negotiable.

During an open forum, some of the workers noted the Government’s removal of the subsidy stemmed from the attitude of some commercial drivers who had switched from petrol to gas because of Government subsidy on the latter and made fantastic profits at the expense of the nation’s economy.

They said originally the subsidy on the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) by the government was for the sake of individuals who patronized the commodity for domestic use to discourage the use of charcoal to save the nation’s fast degrading forests.

“If for any reason the government became aware that some commercial drivers were capitalizing on its liberalization policy, then the government should have dealt with those drivers who are in the minority of the national population and not the entire nation, with workers as the worst-hit”, they said.

Source: GNA

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