Workers invoke curses on Railway Minister
The Minister of Ports, Harbours and Railways, Prof Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi was shocked on Wednesday, when the chairman of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC), Joseph Kenneth Dadzie, during a libation prayer called on the gods to strike the Minister if he fails to tell the railway workers the truth.
According to the Daily Guide, The drama occurred when the Minister met the management and workers of GRC at "Location, Bottom Tree" near Sekondi to address their concerns and persuade them to get back to work after almost two weeks of strike action.
The railway workers, who wore red bands on their wrists and chanted war songs, said there had not been any salary increase for the past five years and were therefore demanding 150 percent increase and better conditions of service.
It all began after a Christian prayer had been said, which was followed by a traditional prayer offered by Mr. Dadzie, who is also a railway worker.
Dadzie, who had a red cloth around his neck apparently to signify that he was in a serious mood, took a bottle of "akpeteshie", stood in front of the over one thousand aggrieved workers and offered the libation prayer.
At the tail end of the prayers, Mr. Dadzie called on the gods of the land to strike the Minister dead if he lied to them in the address that was to follow, because the railway workers were tired of his previous vain promises.
This pronouncement attracted a loud applause from the workers amidst shouts of "You are right! You are right!!"
The Minister, who was visibly disturbed at the 'curse', asked Dadzie never to do that again. In anger he remarked, "Do you know where I come from? Why do you say such a thing to me?"
As if that was not enough, John Acquah, an IMC member, when given the microphone, told the Minister that he was incompetent and that the workers would petition President• Kufuor to remove him from office.
The DAILY GUIDE said when it tried to find out from Mr. Dadzie why he offered that prayer, he said for many years workers of the company had not had upward adjustment in their salaries and had not been paid their salaries for the past three months also.
He claimed that whenever he went to see the Minister in Accra on the workers' grievances, especially on their salary arrears, Prof. Ameyaw Akumfi gave lots of promises which he did not fulfil.
"When "a minister does this, is he not lying to us? So I offered such a powerful libation prayer so that the gods of Sekondi, Ketan and Kojokrom will take Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi on if he reneged on his promises this time around. He has taken us for a ride for far too long," he angrily said.
According to Dadzie the workers had passed a resolution, a copy of which was handed to DAILY GUIDE, calling for the immediate removal of the Minister and the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Rufus Quaye.
It said for the past four years, the managing director and the leadership of the Railway Workers' Union of TUC had deliberately refused to address their concerns.
According to the resolution, there had not been any communication between the workers and the railway union for the past three years and that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between management and the union had not been reviewed since it expired on 31st December, 2000.
"The former union executive headed by Mr. Samuel Kokovina is dissolved and all transactions on behalf of the union are vested in the Interim Management Committee," the resolution indicated.
Reacting to some of the issues raised by the aggrieved workers in the resolution, Prof. Ameyaw Akumfi said government had sourced for a loan of $90,000, of which half would be Used to rehabilitate obsolete equipment and other facilities to get the company running and that part of the loan would be used to service the backlog of workers' salaries.
He therefore called on the workers to remain calm, because the loan would be able to bring the company back to life and consequently enable it to haul greater tonnage of manganese, bauxite and cocoa to generate the needed revenue to bring smiles on their faces.
He told the workers their demands would be thoroughly discussed with the authorities and solutions offered soon, but wondered why the workers were up in arms against the same management which would make the negotiations on their behalf.
He pointed out that the company was in distress, and owed certain organizations including the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the Internal Revenue Service huge sums of money.
He gave the assurance that a committee would be set up to investigate allegations levelled against some members of the company's management and pointed out that until the findings of the investigations were out, the company's management personnel still remained at post.