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10.09.2004 General News

1,600 GWCL jobs to go after elections?

By Public Agenda
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Workers of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) are gripped with fear and anxiety as the November planned date for retrenching 1,600 of them draws nigh, Weekend Agenda has discovered.

A general sense of insecurity and fear prevails among the workers, and is affecting their morale, and productivity, said an insider, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, ostensibly out of fear.

The planned retrenchment comes as part of the government's controversial Water Sector Reform Programme, which was initially packaged as an Assets Lease Arrangement, but re-clothed as Management Contract, following intense campaign against the programme by civil society groups, organized under the National Coalition Against Water Privatisation (NCAP).

Under the draft Framework Document for the Management Service Contract, prepared by the World Bank, the Bank would provide loans to finance the retrenchment of 1,600 workers of GWCL. Even though, the workers have been assured of very attractive send-off packages, they have become jittery and extremely anxious, as the mover and shaker of their destiny - the World Bank, and the Government of Ghana have to date, not been forthcoming with details of the package, as well as the how and when they are going to be laid-off. The workers raised their concerns at a meeting with NCAP, when the coalition cautioned them to be weary of any possible attempts to outwit them into accepting what might in the end turn out to be a bad deal, when the proposed Management Contract is signed. A private company, according to NCAP, would be hired at a cost of $1million to facilitate the retrenchment programme.

Credible information available to the Weekend Agenda however, suggests that the retrenchment of the workers has been shifted to March 2005, after the 2004 general elections.

“The government would gamble with its chances at the polls over such an unpopular policy” our source intimated.

The workers anxiety appears to have been fueled by the new knowledge that several World Bank programmes which laid off workers, promising good severance packages, have turned out as pranks, designed to win their support. Citing the case of the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration (GIMPA) workers, who are still fighting for their packages, as an example of government's deception, the workers called for openness in the government's handling of information pertaining to the on-going reforms in the sector.

The Deputy Minister for Works & Housing, Dr. Brimpong Yeboah, speaking to the Weekend Agenda in a telephone interview, confirmed that mass retrenchment is on the cards, but could not specify the numbers. He said, the exercise would begin once the Management Contract Agreement has been signed. The document, he said has already been approved by cabinet, and endorsed by parliament.