Hundreds of textile workers on Friday hit the streets of Accra to demand swift action from the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to deal with textile piracy more resolutely.
The Coalition of Textile Workers, comprising employees of the Akosombo Textiles Limited (ATL), Ghana Textile Printing Limited (GTP), Printex and Volta Star, who staged the demonstration, gave a one-month ultimatum to the government to review the terms of reference of the anti-textile piracy task force, otherwise the group would continue to demonstrate until its demands are met.
The textile workers and the Ministry of Trade and Industry have been involved in a protracted engagement and disagreement for more than six months over the mandate of the anti-textile piracy task force.
The workers are demanding that the government expand the mandate of the task force to allow its members to enter the markets to clamp down on the activities of pirates in the textile industry.
The two-hour demonstration started from the Obra Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange from where the demonstrators walked through some of the streets of Adabraka along the Trades Union Congress (TUC) building before they converged on the Accra Hearts of Oak Park.
It was a charged atmosphere as the aggrieved workers who were clad mostly in red attire with red armbands, chanted and sang patriotic songs amid brass band music.
They carried placards some of which read: “Nana Addo, textile companies are dying,” “Seize and burn pirated textiles,” “workforce before – 30,000, workforce now – 3,000,” “Protect existing factories before one-district, one-factory,” “Task force is not a border guard,” and “Restore the task force to the markets.”
The demonstration was carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner with heavy police presence to ensure order and secure lives and properties.
When the demonstrators finally got to the Accra Hearts of Oak Park, leaders of the coalition took turns to address them.
They urged the demonstrators not to relent in their efforts until the President listened to them and addressed their grievances.
A four-point petition highlighting the immediate challenges of the local textile industry, was presented to the President through Mr Ebenezer A. Padi, the acting Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The petition called on President Akufo-Addo to intervene to ensure that the members of the task force were allowed into the markets to seize smuggled and pirated textiles.
The coalition asked for a reduction in utility tariffs for the local textile companies and called for mechanisms to ensure that importers of genuine textile products were made to pay the right taxes.
“We further want tax incentives to be granted distressed textile companies such as GTP, ATL, Printex and Volta Star, while urgent steps are taken to revive those which have folded up already,” the coalition said.
Speaking to journalists after presenting the petition, the Communication Officer of the Coalition of Textile Workers, Mr John Kofi Abeka, said the time had come for President Akufo-Addo to take bold steps to address the challenges facing the textile industries if he wanted to give real meaning to his government’s job creation mantra.
“We have all seen that the President hastaken to wearing local fabrics, which is a good sign that he wants to promote local textile products. However, we want him to move beyond that to ensure that all kinds of uniforms, including those used by the police, school pupils, students and nurses, are produced by local companies,” he stated.
He said if the government failed to address the concerns of the workers in the textile industry, the demonstrations would continue until their demands were met.
Recounting the losses the companies had recorded as a result of pirated textiles, he said: “The financial losses are enormous but the loss of labour is even dire because the industry used to have 30,000 workers, but the number has reduced drastically to 3,000 with many more to go if steps are not taken to stop these illegalities in the system.”
Receiving the petition, Mr Padi said the concerns of the coalition would be handed over to the sector minister, Mr Alan Kyerematen, for onward submission to the President.
He advised the textile workers to exercise restraint while the appropriate authorities took steps to address the challenges facing the industry.
The textile companies and the Ministry of Trade and Industry have been slugging it out over the terms of reference of the anti-piracy textile task force which restrained the members from monitoring pirated products at the points of sale.
The 17-member task force was inaugurated on October 11, 2017 and given the mandate to clamp down on the activities of pirates in the textile industry.
Among other duties, the task force had the mandate to increase monitoring at the country’s borders, particularly the eastern border at Aflao, to prevent the illegal importation of pirated textiles.
It was, however, restricted from extending its monitoring activities to market centres that serve as the points of sale of pirated textiles.
A meeting between a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Carlos Ahenkrah, and the textile workers last Wednesday over the impending demonstration ended in a stalemate.