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31.03.2005 General News

I'm Surprised At Organised Labour - Ocquaye

I'm Surprised At Organised Labour - Ocquaye

The Energy Minister, Professor Mike Ocquaye, has expressed surprise at organised labour for calling on government to review petroleum prices.

He explained that a government delegation, including himself, the Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning, Information and Employment, Youth and Manpower, had very fruitful discussions with organised labour on Monday, after which it was agreed that another meeting should be held at a time to be mutually agreed upon by the TUC leadership and the Minister of Employment.

Mr. Adu-Amankwah said after a meeting with government representatives on Monday, organised labour could still not understand why taxes and levies should go up.

The secretary-general argued that if the prices of petroleum products had been raised, then efforts to mitigate its impact in the form of the social impact mitigation levy should come from somewhere else and not the same product.

He said a look at the breakdown of the three components used in fixing petroleum prices could also not convince organised labour that there were government subsidies on fuel prices.

He said it was not clear why the distribution margins should go up in the context of a rise in crude oil prices.

Mr. Adu-Amankwah said the argument that petroleum prices were higher in neighbouring countries should not be part of the reason for the increases in petroleum prices because the economic circumstances in those countries were different.

He said organised labour was also not happy that the government announced the increases in the prices of products without first seeking parliamentary approval for the tax component of the prices.

He said ignoring Parliament was very serious, especially for a government, which claimed to believe in democratic principles. Mr. Adu Amankwah said that though the situation was later rectified, organised labour would want to put its protest on record to prevent a recurrence.

He said organised labour was not consulted before the prices of the products were fixed, contrary to the impression being created that the government held a consultative meeting with organised labour.

The secretary general explained that what the government consulted organised labour on was how to mitigate the impact of an increase if it should happen.

“The consultation had nothing to do with the levels of price increases,” he said.

Asked what organised labour would do if the government did not respond positively to its demand, Mr. Adu-Amankwah said, “Taking to the streets is not the only means to get the government to listen”.

Since the government increased the prices of petroleum products on February 18, this year, two protest marches have been organised by the Committee for Joint Action (CJA).

Explaining further, Professor Ocquaye said it was not true that the government did not consult organised labour on the price adjustment, adding that serious discussions were held with the TUC and other civil society groups before the action was taken.

He said during the meeting with organised labour on Monday the technical staff and their sector ministers went to great length to explain to the leadership of organised labour the totality of the process of deregulation and the increases in the petroleum prices.

“We ended the meeting with the understanding that another meeting will be held at a time to be mutually agreed upon by the TUC leadership and the Minister of Employment. I am surprised at the alleged statement from organized labour in the light of what transpired on Monday,” Professor Ocquaye said.

He indicated that he would consult his colleagues in order to put forward an appropriate response to the alleged viewpoints of organised labour.

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