From Inusa Musah, Tema .
Felix Mensah Nii Annang-La, Tema Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), has implored the striking tanker drivers to resume work for the sake of the country, as he negotiates with the authorities to get their demands met.
And to get the angry drivers return to work, he was to, in the first place, use his office to get three members of the group in the police custody discharged, and secondly, get the demonstrators’ buses released to them by the police.
On Monday, what was supposed to be a sit-down strike by the Ghana National Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union (GNPTDU) turned chaotic, when a personnel of National Security at the Tema Oil Refinery reportedly pulled a gun on the peaceful demonstrators.
Among the demands of the GNPTDU were poor remuneration, and outstanding and shortages they record at the delivery stations due to the unevenness of some underground tanks.
Drivers who record such shortages are surcharged, a situation, the drivers said, has had a severe financial toll on their meagre salaries.
Several complaints they had laid before the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) to order the oil marketing companies (OMCs) to always confer waybills with their suppliers and cross-check the quantity of fuel in the bulk before discharging into the underground tanks, have not been adhered to.
To press home their demands and other conditions of service, the members of the GNPTDU laid down their tools, but, the U-turn by their colleague gas tanker drivers, who resumed work, resulted in a misunderstanding between the two groups.
A National Security officer at the scene reportedly pulled a gun to scare the demonstrators, and that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Armed police personnel, led by the Tema Regional Police Command Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Joseph Darkwa, arrived at the scene to douse the tensions, however, that did not last when the GPTDU resumed their agitations, because the gas tanker drivers resumed work.
The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the agitating crowd, injuring some of them, and arrested three members of the GNPTDU.
Despite a stakeholders’ meeting the Chief Executive of the NPA, Alhassan Tampuli, called to resolve the issue, the GNPTDU members held that their strike action would not be called off.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the GNPTDU, Tanker Owners Union (TOU), Bulk Oil Storage and Transport Limited (BOST), BOST tanker drivers, Association of Oil Marketing Companies (AOMCs), General Transport, and Petroleum and Chemical Workers Union (GTPCWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
However, Felix Mensah Nii Annang-La, yesterday, met with the leadership of the GNPTDU to appeal to them to rescind their decision for the sake of the innocent consumers, whose lives depend on the fuel.
He said: “You can’t strike forever, though you have genuine concerns. Several lives are in your hands, and the innocent Ghanaian needs you back to work,” he lobbied the demonstrators.
He assured them of helping to get their demands resolved, no matter the distance the negotiations between him and the authorities would travel.
He, however, said, in the meantime, he would get the union members who were apprehended by the police discharged, and entreated the police to release their impounded vehicles.
George Nyaunu, Chairman of the GNPTDU, was thankful to the Tema MCE for calling on them, and giving them his assuring words.
He was quick to however, say that the GNPTDU members were not cowards, “because we will shake ourselves again if we don’t hear any positive feedback from you. The NPA is trying to break our front instead of solving our plight, but, I repeat …we are not cowards.”
Mr Nyaunu said the GNPTDU would use all legal means to address the problems, as he called on his members to resume work.