From Edmond Gyebi, Tamale
The Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Mahama Ayariga, in an attempt to address the numerous concerns of agitated workers of the Ghana Cotton Company Limited (GCCL), has rather played the party card, and inflamed the fires burning in the company.
At a meeting with workers and management, the former presidential spokesman backed a proposal for carrying out an immediate restructuring exercise to save the company from eminent collapse.
The Minister’s reaction followed a series of accusations and counter-accusations, demonstrations, petitions, and legal battles between the GCCL workers and management that have raged on for almost a year now, leading to the temporary closure of the company.
The embattled GCCL workers, in all the operational divisions in Tamale, Tumu and Bolgatanga, have refused to go on duty, due to diverse problems confronting them, with the issue of outstanding salaries being the most prominent.
They are now demanding the immediate removal of the current management, led by Mr. Kingsley Oseiku, who is Managing Director. “We can no longer work with our current management because we have lost confidence in them. But, if government wants to maintain them to continue the rotten dealings, then they should pay us our benefits, and we shall all go.”
Responding to the workers’ demands, the Deputy Minister, who seemed to have a full grasp of the problems confronting the company, said to the delight of the workers that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, in its quest to revive the cotton industry, would not condone any irresponsible behaviour on the part of management or workers who “are just a handful, at the expense of the over 500,000 cotton farmers in Ghana, who could offer vital votes to NDC in 2012.”
He explained that the intended restructuring exercise of the company means that some management members, or all of them, could be out of office.
Some workers, or all of them, could also be laid off, and a committed staff force recruited. But that would depend on the outcome of independent investigations the government had agreed to institute into the operations of the management of the GCCL, especially, in the last decade.
Mr. Ayariga conceded that governments, over the years, had not done much or given special attention to the cotton industry, which gives jobs to almost a million Ghanaians, including farmers, input dealers and core staff of the industry.
Cotton is one of the few commodities that provide income to the people of the three Northern regions of Ghana in particular, but the industry has suffered retrogression of late, due to lack of political will, poor national policies, bad management and the high cost of inputs.
The Deputy Minister said unlike neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, which produce over 200,000 metric tonnes of cotton annually, Ghana could not boast of even 10,000 metric tonnes of the product in a year.
The local chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) of GCCL, Mr. Raphael Zuanah, read a resolution on behalf of the workers, with the title -“Loss of Confidence in Current Management,” and signed by the union leaders, registering the discomfort of the entire workers.
“The management continues to maintain the huge number of 24 management team, and their huge salaries put so much pressure on the company’s limited resources, making the company sink year after year. It is sad to note that the salaries of the 24 management staff put together can pay the rest of the entire work force. The lowest management staff salary stands at GH¢1,800, while workers wages are pegged between GH¢80 and GH¢130.