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14.09.2004 General News

2004 Elections Under Threat

By Chronicle

...As EC Workers Beat War Drums ... Give gov't Oct. 1 to meet demands SNIPPETS OF information from among employees of the Electoral Commission (EC) indicate that the Presidential and parliamentary general elections slated for December 2004 could be in jeopardy.

Both senior and junior staff of the commission intend to embark upon a sit-down strike to press home their demand for better conditions of service.

"Only a miracle can save the situation," an aggrieved employee hinted, adding that unless this miracle can happen too soon between now and October 1, this year, the sit-down strike is inevitable.

Should this happen the whole arrangement for the impending elections, particularly the exhibition of voters' register and the compilation of data, following the recent mopping up exercise would be thrown overboard.

The Chronicle has gathered that the stand of the workers is not negotiable since any compromise on their part now would render the worst and useless group of workers after the December elections.

The workers are convinced to make good their agitations because even a week's strike action would adversely affect the electoral system and render the December elections chaotic.

The basis of the intended strike action, which comes as a sequel to that embarked upon by junior officers two months ago is that the workers are not satisfied with the conditions of service regarding salaries.

The agitations for better conditions have started two years ago until the Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) recommended a "questionable" increase.

The workers see the July 1, 2004 effective date of implementation of the GUSS recommendations as unthinkable.

According to a Chronicle source, EC management had assured them that the effective date would be January 1, 2004 since it was going to be captured in this year's budget.

The July 1 date, as announced by a top official of the Finance Ministry, has come as a surprise, they complained.

To adequately push for what they want, a formidable team of unionized staff of the EC, made up of senior staff executives and local union members, was to meet in the Eastern regional capital of Koforidua yesterday (Sunday September 12) to discuss the latest development.

The blame has been squarely deposited at the doorstep of the management of the Commission, which has allegedly remained unconcerned and accordingly been described as not responsible because they are lethargic about salaries of employees.

The contention is that management has over the years abandoned issues like salaries and allowances to the local union, which has no guts to effectively negotiate in the interest of the workers.

The employees are incensed by the reported utterance of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the commission's chairman, to the effect that he is not committed to the welfare of the workers.

Some of the workers Chronicle talked to recounted that as far back as the late 1980s the employees of then National Commission on Democracy (NCD) and later the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC) used to enjoy same salary structure as some group of workers of the Bank of Ghana.

Since early1990s when the Electoral Commission was born the trend, according to our sources, has changed as salaries have consistently and seriously declined.

The EC workers have appealed to the government to act fast and save the situation or have itself to blame if the election is put on hold following the intended action or inaction.

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