Mr John-Peter Amewu, Minister of Railways Development, has assured the 674 workers of the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL), who were retrenched in 2002 that their salaries will be paid.
“I sympathize with the past workers. I understand over 600 of them were retrenched in the year 2002 and are currently sitting at home without salaries,” Mr Amewu stated in his address at a durbar of railway workers in Secondi-Takoradi during his two-day tour of the Western Region.
“I feel I can’t do that. If I have to work and I have to go home and sit down without what I have worked for; it isn’t worth sacrificing for this nation.”
Mr Amewu noted that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had directed that the retrenched railway workers be paid their salaries, adding that the “President will not say this without living according to his word”.
Mr Amewu said having taken the seat as a new Minister, one of the first objectives and pressing issues which was on his desk was to make sure that those 674 workers were paid as quickly as possible.
“We will do everything possible to make sure that they are paid. What is disheartening is that some of them have even already passed away, this could not be accepted. So, I sympathize with you,” Mr Amewu stated.
The Minister expressed gratitude to the railway workers for their sacrifices and contributions over the years towards Ghana’s socio-economic development.
“Railway workers have played their roles in terms of the economic growth of this country, there is no doubt about it,” he said.
“You have done what other people cannot do; you have sacrificed yourself within the limited resources to achieve what is there for everybody to see.”
He said, he believed in theory that if certain resources were available and the infrastructure was put in place, Ghana railway workers would be one of the most enviable institution in the country.
Regarding the issue of salaries of GRCL workers, the Minister said it was true that their salaries currently was one of the lowest in the country, saying, “there are reasons why this is so, but I think there is a way that we can go around this”.
He said under the current administration, President Akufo-Addo had put a deal of great attention on the railway sector.
He said within the past four years the amount of money the Government invested in railway infrastructure development was more than all money put together during the previous 16 years if one combines Presidents: John Agyekum Kufuor, John Attah Mills and John Mahama’s regimes to what Nana Addo had done.
“We expect that if we put this infrastructure in place, like we are doing in the Western Railway Line right now from Takoradi to Kumasi and branch to Nyinahini and Awaso, the sector would open up and there would be job opportunities for the people.
He said using the railways for freight transportation such as the haulage of bauxite from Awaso and Nyinahini, would enable the GRCL to generate more revenues.
“If you are able to haul at least five million metric tonnes within a year, do you know the revenue that will come to you? The Ghana Government will come and borrow from you people. And that is what we must do. And that is the area we are looking at.” Mr Amewu said.
“So, to pave the way to make sure that your salaries and your living conditions improve, we must begin to revamp the industry. A dying industry without any incentive for revenue cannot continue to exist on its own,” he said.
He said, “if I instruct the GRCL Managing Director (MD) to triple the salaries of all the railway workers; the MD could not be able to do so” because the money for the payment was supposed to come from their internally generated revenue.
The Minister noted that the MD could not do it because the infrastructure that would generate the revenue was not available.
This, he said, was the reason the Government was quickly putting down the railways infrastructure to generate revenue and start paying the workers.
“That withstanding, it doesn’t means that we should not make an effort within the current circumstances to increase the little that you are taking,” Mr Amewu said.
Mr Goodwill Ntarmah, General Secretary, Ghana Railway Workers Union, called for a review of the Railway Act, (Act 779), which placed all assets hitherto under the care of GRCL to the Ghana Railway Development Authority.