Thousands of workers stranded as drivers strike
Hundreds of passengers, mostly workers and traders from Madina and Adenta leaving for Accra on Monday morning were left stranded following an alleged strike action by some members of the Ghana Private Road and Transport Union(GPRTU). Some GPRTU officials in Adenta who pleaded anonymity told the Ghana News Agency that the situation could be attributed to high insurance premium on vehicles and escalating prices of spare parts. They, however, said they did not know the real situation on the ground as they had not heard anything from Union officials in Accra. One union official, when asked by the GNA what they were doing about the situation, said he was looking for a vehicle to go to Accra or Circle to find out from their executives what was actually happening. A driver who had just arrived from Accra but who refused to identify himself, said some angry members of the GPRTU were beating up drivers who dared pick passengers. For example, he said, a driver from Dodowa not only had his windscreen destroyed but was also beaten up and had his shirt torn off him. "I am a family man and I need to work to feed my family; moreover, I have to account for the day's sales to my vehicle owner," he said. A driver's mate who spoke to the GNA said the situation was worse at Nima, where some passengers were even pleading to pay 2,000 cedis or double the fair to Accra but no driver was prepared to load. As at 9 o'clock, the situation was still tense as the drivers, especially those going to Accra, refused to budge. Those who were willing to pick passengers did so on agreement that they would go only as far as to the 37 Military Hospital bus stop or charge something extra because they would have to return empty from Accra. They also expressed the fear that if they entered the main Tema Lorry Park in Accra they would face the wrath of some angry union members. Moro Zakari, a driver, who was seen loading to Circle in Accra, said, however, that the situation there seemed to have normalised. "I am just from Circle but there was no disturbance at the time I was leaving." Asked whether he was charging the normal fare or something extra, he said he was charging the normal fare of 1,000 cedis. Some passengers who spoke to the GNA expressed regret about the situation which had disrupted their day's schedules. Mr Laryea Anang, a worker, told the GNA that he reported at the station as early as 6. a.m. but only four vehicles had actually loaded, adding that even those who were willing to pick passengers did so on the express agreement that they would not go past the 37 Military Hospital Bus Stop. Mr Salo Mensah, a worker from the Volta Region who said he was going to seek medical care at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, told the GNA that he had waited endlessly for a vehicle since 6.30 a.m. but no one had told them anything. As at 9.30 a.m., there were two unusually long queue at Adenta and Madina Zongo Junction and there was the likelihood that most of them would either choose to go back home or arrive very late at their workplaces. Commercial activities in Accra disrupted - By Graphic Reporters TROTRO drivers in Accra and Tema yesterday disrupted commercial activities in the city through a strike action the GPRTU described as illegal. The action compelled hundreds of passengers, mostly workers and traders in some parts of the Accra metropolis, to walk from their homes to their various workplaces. At La, some of the drivers and their mates blocked the main Labadi-Tema highway making it impossible for other road users to ply the road. The National Executive of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) of the TUC expressed shock at the demonstrations by some of its members, reports Michael Donkor. It has, therefore, made it clear that the union was not behind the action. In a statement, the union reiterated its stand on seeking redress for grievances through the Ghana Road Transport Co-ordinating Council (GRTCC) as contained in its release of September 19, but not in such a lawless demonstration which, by a careful consideration of its timing and venue, suggests the possibility of something else. It, therefore, condemned the demonstrations in no uncertain terms and called on the police to expose the perpetrators and those possibly behind them. According to some of the drivers, they were protesting against increases in insurance premiums and escalating prices of spare parts, reports Emmanuel Tandoh & Francis Asamoah Tuffuor. They explained that insurance premium which was previously ¢350,000 has now been increased to ¢850,000. In addition, they said that there has also been an increase in the cost of road worthiness certificate as well as increases in rates charged by the assemblies and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as vehicle income tax. These, they explained, have made it difficult for them to make their daily sales as demanded by vehicle owners. The drivers also claimed that they cannot afford spare parts when their vehicles break down, adding that “our members are constantly harassed and arrested unlawfully by the police’’. They contented that they expected the authorities to consider an increment in fares to conform to the rising cost of input but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The road barricade by these protesters was, however, dismantled by the police to open the way for vehicular movement. According to Chief Supt Kofi Boakye, the Accra Regional Police Commander, the drivers did not serve any prior notice to the police of their intention to embark on a strike action. He said although the drivers have the right to voice out their grievances, the method they employed was unlawful. He noted that the Police Service is not against peaceful demonstration but frowns on any action which infringes on the rights of others. He said “even the timing was wrong as the President will be plying the Labadi-Tema main road as he was hosting the former President of the Unites States Mr Bill Clinton at the La Palm Royal Beach. Supt Boakye noted that seven of the drivers as well as the La branch of the GPRTU executives who allegedly took the law into their own hands have been arrested. He warned that no matter the grievances of the drivers, they would not be permitted to block any road and urged any group that wants to protest to do so lawfully. To disperse the drivers, the police fired tear gases into the protesters. Three people, including a 17-year-old school girl of Osu Manhean JSS, were injured and admitted at the La Polyclinic. In a related development the Minister of Roads and Transport, Dr Richard Anane, has described the demonsration by some commercial drivers in Accra as unnecessary and premature, report Alberta Akosa & Pendiland Wireko-Brobbey According to him, the leadership of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), and other stakeholders are yet to present a proposal for an upward increase in transport fares following increases in premiums of insurance products.