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Source: Graphic Online

About 350 members of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) have been laid off since January 2015 as a result of various industrial and commercial concerns arising out of the energy crisis, a senior official of the ICU has said.

According to the General Secretary of the union, Mr Solomon Kotei, production at many industries had been affected by the inconsistencies in power supply.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Kotei highly commended some employers for bearing up under trying circumstances to maintain their workforce, in spite of the dwindling fortunes of their companies.

Given the dire nature of the situation, he said some of their members with industrial businesses that produced aluminium, for instance, had to heat their equipment for the smelting of the by-product.

“However, sometimes as soon as they get the right temperature and put in their material, there is a power outage and in such a circumstance the material can even not be salvaged for any useful product,” he said.

Likening the processing of aluminium to the baking of bread, Mr Kotei said, “When the baker heats his or her oven and puts in the dough, if by some misadventure the oven breaks down and there is no more heat, the dough becomes destroyed. It is no longer useful for bread or any other edible product.”

He said as a result of power outages, the production cost of many industrial concerns had increased, a situation which had compelled some employers to lay off some of their workers.

In the hospitality sector, for instance, Mr Kotei said the energy crisis had resulted in high operation costs.

“With lifts not working, hotel workers had to manually haul large suitcases into hotel rooms,” he said.

He acknowledged that some hotels were using generating sets, saying the cost was unbearable and eroding the gains of managers.

“Generators are supposed to be used in emergencies, but they are now the norm and expensive to use,” he said.

Mr Kotei said the food and beverages sector was also facing similar challenges, with Unilever and Nestle reeling under the energy crisis.

He said with those in the sector, their plight was worsened by the fact that they were almost being thrown out of business with the liberalisation of the economy and the influx of all kinds of imported beverages and foods on the Ghanaian market.

He said if industrialisation brought about economic growth, then the government had to sit up and address the challenges.

Mr Kotei was not happy with the load-shedding schedules for industries, saying apart from the fact that what was given was inadequate, it was also inconsistent.

He also expressed his displeasure with the government’s proposition to date in relation to the energy crisis and said the government, by not providing a plan on how it was going to fix the challenge in the budget, was not being consistent.

“The energy crisis is cutting us off from the comity of nations in the global world,” he maintained, and urged the government to come up with solutions that all could associate with to forestall a demonstration by workers.

Mr Kotei pointed out that the situation had affected the payment of dues by members of the ICU, thereby dwindling the fortunes of the labour union.

At the time of the visit, the ICU had hired a generating set to light up its offices for work.

The noise from the generating set was deafening as one climbed the stairway to the offices. The set had to be kept in one of the washrooms.

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