Mr Asamoah has queried whether providers were able to address consumer service issues which came up strongly during the 2013 major review.
The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) has sent a strong message to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) that it will not accept any astronomical increases in utility tariffs.
According to the leadership of the TUC, the review of tariffs must take into account what the workers can afford.
“There is a limit to which people can pay. Yes, you are asking for major upward adjustments, but since you are also employers, you must ask yourselves that when the labour unions come to make demand for a 200 per cent increment in worker’s salary, will you be willing to grant it?” the Secretary-General of the TUC, Mr Kofi Asamoah queried.
Mr Asamoah was speaking at a consultative meeting on tariff increment arranged by the PURC in Tema at the weekend.
Representatives of the Volta River Authority (VRA), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), presented proposals to the labour unions to justify their calls for major increment in tariffs.
“The demands by the electricity providers is also likely to increase the cost of water marginally since the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) would also be paying hugely for electricity for their production”, Mr Asamoah indicated.
He queried whether providers were able toP address consumer service issues which came up strongly during the 2013 major review.
“When the previous increases were granted, how reflective have they been on services”, Mr Asamoah asked.
He stressed that while organised labour would not disagree that challenges such as economic management and depreciation of the cedi were beyond the control of the public utility providers, “organised labour would send a formal response to the PURC on whether the proposals presented should be accepted or rejected”.
The head of Business Development at the VRA, Mr Kofi Ellis, indicated that the challenges in the power sector persisted because the money consumers paid could not support generation costs.
“We come back to the consumer all the time because the continuous insistence that they cannot pay is equally compounding the challenges for the providers”, Mr Ellis pointed out.
“The bottom line is money which we as producers, transmitters and distributors do not have. Who should bring the money?
“If the people who use the power say they cannot pay for it, then who should bring it? Should it be the government, the people or we borrow to create further debts, which the end user may not be willing to pay,” he probed.
Mr Ellis emphasised that the erratic supply of power remained a big issue and if it was not handled properly, could be a challenge for the country for a very long time.
He expressed worry that every year, the meeting and justification for increment was gradually becoming a talk shop, since consumers would continue to maintain a “we-cannot-pay stance”.
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“We will come back next year and repeat the same thing if we are not willing to balance the equation for the providers and the consumer alike”.
“We have to be realistic about the issue and admit that we are in a crisis and need a collective collaboration to address our challenges”, he reiterated.
The Chairman of the PURC, Dr Emmanuel Annan, who described the forum with organised labour as the best and well-organised consultative forum that the commission had held so far, tasked the unions to endeavour to present their proposals on time to enable the PURC deliberate on them.
According to him, the commission was aware that the membership of organised labour was dependent on job preservation and job security.
“We are aware of the impact the electricity crisis over the past years has had on employment and we as a commission will consider all possibilities during our deliberations on the various proposals”, Dr Annan assured.
Credit: Graphic online