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30.03.2006 General News

Railway workers on strike

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..Railway is in coma, we need oxygen Accra, March 30, GNA - The Railway Workers Union (RWU) supported by the Railway Enginemen's Union (REU) and the Association of Railway Senior Officers (ARSO) on Thursday mounted a peaceful demonstration in Accra to appeal for the restoration of government subvention to the Railways.

The demonstrators, clad in red paraphernalia, and holding placards, some of which read: "Railway is in coma, we need oxygen"; "In the short term, we need subvention while waiting for government plans" and "A hungry man is an angry man", presented a petition addressed to President John Agyekum Kufuor through Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Ports, Harbours and Railways.

The petition signed by Samuel Kokovena, General Secretary, RWU; Charles Leeward, National Chairman, REU and J. A. K. Amoah, President, ARSO; asked for a restoration of government subvention to the Railways, better conditions of service and early payment of salaries and allowances.

The petition stated that the challenges faced by the Railway Workers were as a result of Government's "inability to resource and capitalize the Railways to play its rightful role in the national economy".

It called for the institution of urgent measures to restore the Railways to its former glory.

The petition said the withdrawal of government subvention since 1997, had "contributed significantly to the deterioration of the assets and infrastructure" adding that "railways the world over are financially supported by the State irrespective of ownership and our Railways cannot be an exception."

It asked the President to urgently intervene to conclude salary negotiations with the Unions, which had dragged on since April 2005. "As Unions we are concerned about the need to modernize and increase efficiency of the system, employment opportunities and to maintain a social and long term economic dimension to plan the Railways", the petition said.

It said the Railway Workers were aware of plans by the Government to restructure the sector adding that any successful restructuring could only be achieved if the workers were fully involved in the process from the beginning.

Receiving the petition, Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi, said although the Railway Sector required huge resources to operate, absence of such support should not be viewed by the workforce as neglect by the Government.

He said the Government was doing all it could in the short term to revamp the railway industry, and urged the workers to work efficiently to help to save the situation.

Interacting with newsmen after the demonstration, Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi said the Ministry was in the process of engaging private sector investors, who had expressed interest in the development of the railway sector.

He said it was unfortunate that very few of the existing railway lines in the country were active, leaving the majority of the workforce idle.

"Some of them are working on their own, especially doing farming, yet at the end of the month, they collect their pay", he noted. Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi said the Ministry was working at re-structuring the sector, which would lead to a reduction in the workforce of 3,600 to a maximum of 2,000 to ensure efficiency.

He said a nine-member Board would be inaugurated later in the day to assist in the recovery of lands and other properties belonging of the Railways, which had been encroached upon among other duties.