VALCO shuts down after workers protest
The Volta Aluminium Company Limited (VALCO) has been shut down.
This followed a request by the management of the company to the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) yesterday[November 1, 2022] to cut off power supply to the company in the wake of worker agitation for better wages and other matters.
The protesting workers have, meanwhile, described the measure by the company as unfortunate, saying that the closure will have a severe impact on the cells of the aluminium plant which could make it difficult to restart the plant.
A management source at GRIDCo told the Daily Graphic that an official request from VALCO necessitated the power cut, adding:
“We can only restore power at their demand when they are able to resolve whatever issues they have with their workers.”
The source added that the disconnection was causing GRIDCo to lose revenue from a power supply agreement between the two entities.
At a press conference yesterday, the workers union said outages at the smelter for more than two hours would freeze the cells and make restarting the plant problematic.
“Some outages can cost up to millions of dollars, and for a plant that runs on 127 active cells that are supposed to be running 24 hours each day, you will need more than $100,000 to revive every single cell.
“We consider too that there are no emergency programmes that could have minimised the damage the power cut may have occasioned,” the Union Chairman, Edgar Tetteh, said.
The workers union have been calling for the restoration of their wages indexed to the US dollar since Monday.
They are also demanding the removal of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Dan Acheampong, and the Human Resource Director, Festus Quaidoo, from their positions over allegations that they reached their statutory retiring ages more than a year ago.
Mr Tetteh also alleged that workers’ living conditions had worsened, although management continued to benefit from huge allowances that were indexed to the US dollar.
"There's nowhere in the world that smelter workers are paid below $500, but our situation is not so. Meanwhile, these managers receive car maintenance and fuel allowances that could cater for the salaries of many workers.
“It is in this light that when we went to the negotiation table in 2021, we agreed with management to find a better way of compensation, using the US dollar index, as has always been the case, so that going forward our wages will be protected,” he added.
On the alleged manhandling of journalists, including a TV3 reporter, on the premises of the company by armed military men during the workers’ protest last Monday, Mr Tetteh described it as unfortunate and called for investigations into the matter.
The management of the company was not available to respond to the allegations and concerns raised by the union.
Attempts to reach management were unsuccessful.
At the time of filing this report, it was learnt that the VALCO management was in a crunch meeting with the leadership of the union.