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Concession deal won’t affect jobs at ports, MPS assures workers

BY: Della Russel Ocloo

The Meridian Port Services (MPS) has assured workers of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) that there will be no job losses when the concession agreement granted the company for the development of a new multipurpose port facility at the Tema Port takes off eventually.

The Chief Executive Officer of the MPS, Mr Mohammed Samara, said the new arrangement would instead require more hands for an extended working period across the day.

“The facility is such that we will need a lot more people for various activities, particularly when we will be running a 24-hour operation under a three-shift arrangement, so we are creating an avalanche of jobs for all stakeholders,” Mr Samara told journalists during a tour of a newly-constructed port facility by the company in Tema, last Tuesday.

He flatly debunked the assertion of job losses when queried by journalists, insisting that the new facility could never be a threat to the operations of the port authority.

Jobs not threatened

The Head of Legal, Licensing and Permits at MPS, Mr Frank Ebo Brown, also stated that Terminal 2 which was presently being operated by the MPS had some 460 permanent employees who would be transferred to the new facility.

He said there were also some 450 contract personnel who would also go to the new facility, arguing that “this gives the GPHA the opportunity to have an area of 427,000 square metres with water front and two berths to be able to engage additional hands without necessarily laying off any of its existing workers”.

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“We are giving them a whole area so as to enable them employ as many people as they can, so I don’t see how there would be job losses when there is a golden opportunity to take advantage of the berth two facility which is still in a very good condition,” Mr Brown stressed.

Mr Brown also stated that the MPS had received several proposals from companies to negotiate and operate the berth two facility, “but we decline since the arrangement is that we hand over to GPHA, so there is a load of opportunity the authority can take advantage of to actually get jobs for its workers”.

Mr Brown said the facility was one that would position Ghana on the global map as a trade hub by linking shipping lines to countries.

Exclusivity clause

Meanwhile, the MPS CEO said the company had not received any formal notice from the GPHA over a review of exclusivity clauses in the concession agreement.

Mr Samara said the GPHA would have to formally inform them on such an issue because “MPS cannot be assuming things that have not been formally addressed to us, particularly when the GPHA is our shareholder and a guarantor of the concession that is being discussed in the public space”.

Speaking to the media during the tour, Mr Samara said his outfit did not need to be responding to queries on its operations in the media since they were yet to receive any such proposals from GPHA.

“We cannot consider something that we have no formal knowledge about. But what is it in the agreement that they will want us to talk about for renegotiations?” Mr Samara queried.

Agreement

The 35-year concession agreement for the development of the new semi-automated terminal, according to an inter-ministerial committee report issued on March 2018, bars GPHA from operating at existing MPS terminal two for containerised cargo business.

Similarly, issues of the retention of port dues and the determination of tariffs by MPS have seen the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) and civil society organisations urging the government to review the agreement to protect investments of the Port Authority and jobs within the sector.

Workers of the authority on April 23, 2019 launched a 21-day protest, dubbed “GPHA Goes Red” which saw the leadership of the workers union in collaboration with the MDU undertaking a week-long protest march within the port enclave to pressure the government to address the issues.

Already, the GPHA has projected that some 1,400 permanent employees of the authority in Tema and Takoradi will be laid off if the new terminal becomes operational by July 1, and the agreement in its present form is made to stay.

GPHA reaction

The General Manager of Corporate Affairs and Marketing at the GPHA, Mrs Esther Gyebi-Donkor, however, declined comment on the issues.

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