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14.01.2009 Politics

I care-4-u Mills running away from wage increase

By The Statesman
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In June last year, the Fair Wages Commission presented its consultant's recommendation to the Kufuor administration for up to a 34 percent increase in the wages and salaries of public sector workers.

This received Cabinet approval in September for implementation January 2009.

In line with this, in the 2009 budget, read by Dr AnthonyAkoto Osei, it was projected that government"s wage bill would go up by 34%. This was voted for by Parliament in November 2008.

On January 6, President J A Kufuor announced 16.5-34 percent increases in salaries for workers in the public and civil service, forming part of the implementation of the single spine salary structure which has been deliberated upon for the past two years.

However, the President-declared, John Evans Atta Mills, has already set his hounds out barking against a decision to improve the living conditions of workers and describing it as "treacherous' and 'mischievous.'

This is in spite of the fact that before the December 28 run-off, Prof Mills announced to the nation that workers' pay would go up within his first 100 days.

'I think the NDC's problem is that we have not allowed them to take credit for this. But, this was something that had been recommended approved. The only problem is that there was not enough time for the tripartite to endorse it.

But it is worth noting that the paymaster, which is the government, had itself approved of the recommendation way back in September. So it was difficult to anticipate any opposition arisen against the ceiling announced by the government,' says former Deputy Information Minister, Frank Agyekum.

The question now on the lips of teachers, nurses, secretaries, etc is this: would a party that had shown so much concern in opposition for rising cost of living now buck at offering them a better condition when it now has an opportunity to do just that?

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress last week drew the new administration's attention to the consultations and negotiations on the single spine pay structure with the NPP administration and urged President Mills to implement it without further delay.

It remains to be seen how the I-Care-4-U opposition leader realises that slogan as President of the Republic.

The NDC is already facing a tough task matching its populist talk in opposition with the realities of maintaining its manifesto promise to keep the budget deficit under 3% in every one of the 4-year mandate.

Among the promises gleefully given by the NDC was to reduce fuel prices to as low as Gh¢2 a gallon within the first week of attaining office.

Already, there are strong signals that although Prof Mills said President Kufuor's pre-run-off fuel price reduction was not sufficiently caring and that he would do better, the better man for a better Ghana is reluctant to deliver on a promise which perhaps persuaded several commuters and commercial drivers to chance for a change with the NDC.

His spokesperson, Mahama Ayariga, is already sounding more like Andy Awuni a few months ago, seeking refuge under global crude oil price movements.

This, however, does not stop Prof Mills from implementing his promise to reduce the tax components of ex-pump prices, which have no direct links with the price of a barrel of crude oil. It remains to be seen if the language of CJA gurus like Ato Ahwoi and Kwesi Pratt Jnr would still be eloquent on calls for reduction on petroleum taxes.

Another promise made by Prof Mills, a tax expert, is never to increase taxes, but rather reduce income tax on the individual.

Last Thursday, the Trade Union Congress made a series of demands including a living wage.

'Even before you settle down for the onerous duties as the President of Ghana,' they told Prof Mills in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Mr Kofi Asamoah, 'we would like to draw your attention to the low wages and incomes in Ghana, especially the public sector, notwithstanding some pay increases over the past few years.'

As the President-declared struggles to accommodate the rivaling demands for positions from the various NDC camps, the words of the TUC must still be echoing in his ears: 'We wish to reiterate Ghana TUC's long-standing demand for a living wage,' it said, adding that the union expected Prof Atta Mills to pay priority attention to the demands to facilitate improved productivity and transformation of the economy.

The TUC also appealed to the Head of State to implement the Pensions Act (Act766), to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Commission in order to address low pensions.

It would be recalled that for 3 years (1997, 1998, 1999) the NDC government refused to increase pensions, only doing so by a fraction to Gh¢1 in 2000. The NPP has increased it by 2,200% since then to Gh¢22.

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