The Management of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) says it has started negotiations with the Meridian Port Services (MPS) over job retention issues when the new terminal under development at the port comes into operations on July 1, 2019.
It followed a directive by the Minister of Transport for the management to iron out issues with the developer on how jobs could be retained in the wake of calls on the government to make definite pronouncements on the concession agreement between the two parties.
The acting Director General of GPHA, Mr Michael Luguje, disclosed this at the port yesterday when he addressed the leadership of the Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) as well as the GPHA workers’ union who staged a protest to drum home demands for an immediate review of the agreement with MPS to manage the Tema Port.
Mr Luguje indicated that following the directive, the GPHA held an initial meeting with MPS, “which, however, ended inconclusively, since we both need to compile data to advance the discussions.”
He said efforts were being made to advance the discussions in line with the directive issued by the ministry so as to provide clarity on the way forward for the workers and the port community.
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Yesterday workers under the MDU wore red shirts and bands in a protest dubbed, “GHPA Goes Red” which saw the union leaders march through some principal streets within the port enclave before converging on the authority’s headquarters where they presented a petition to the Director-General.
Mr Luguje received the petition and said he would send the petition from the workers to the authority’s board of directors and the ministry for redress.
“For now, our mandate is limited to discussions on job loss component, so we are looking at the issues bordering on the likely impact and trying to see if we can find solutions to them before July 1,” he stated.
The granting of the concession to the MPS to develop and operate the new port for 35 years has generated some controversy within the maritime sector, with many calling for a total review of key clauses that exempt the company from paying dividend to the GPHA in the first 10 years of operations.
The MDU maintained that similarly, the developer who had been granted tax waivers by Parliament to the tune of $832 million in March 2016 for the project, would not yield massive economic development and social benefits to the country as had been touted.
The group vowed to sustain the action until the government addressed its concerns.
Presenting the petition, the General Secretary of MDU, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, indicated that the new terminal would operate more as an enclave with minimal economic benefits to the entire country which would go to increase the socio-economic burden in the form of collapsing local businesses and associated job losses.
“It is important to note that although a re-evaluation of the project sum has brought the figure down to $1.1 billion, the tax waiver still remains at $832 million, and with this, we can safely conclude that the project has been funded by the Ghanaian taxpayer and this is enough justification for renegotiations to protect Ghanaian businesses and jobs,” Mr Owusu-Koranteng suggested.
He emphasised that the Deed of Amendment by GPHA, which granted MPS the right to adjust tariffs based on a predetermined formula without any approval from the authority, did not only undermine the GPHA’s regulatory functions, but also the laws of the country.