The Worker Unions of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) has called off the three-day strike action which impeded international trade through and from Ghana.
It followed what they said was the establishment of the authenticity of a letter from the Meridian Port Services (MPS) which ceded a 20 percent share of gateway container traffic to the GPHA effective August 1, 2022, for the next two years.
As such, inbound vessels Voileta B, Nikolas, Maersk Cunene, MSC Trieste, and Zim Pacific which were stranded on Anchorage from Tuesday, July 12 were being docked following the restoration of services to the Shipping Lines by the workers.
The Chairman of the Senior Staff Workers Union, Henry Kuivi told the workers that whereas the allocation period of two years is granted by the MPS was not satisfactory, they would accept it and further engage with the GPHA management to go for a better deal that could make the period renewable.
The workers who converged at the main gate of the Tema Port after a police deployment ejected them from the Marine Block inside the port on Tuesday night blocked the main car park preventing the movement of vehicles from the yard to drop off workers at other terminals.
Mr Kuivi wondered how MPS was able to sign the letter to a lot of the 20 percent share, when the company’s Chief Executive Officer had over the last two years insisted there has no locus to cede the share to the Authority?
“The strike travelled into the third day because the letter presented to us by our Director General looked unbelievable, hence the due diligence on our part to verify the authenticity before we could communicate with our members on the way forward,” Mr Kuivi said.
While the demands of the unions have been that 10-year period exclusivity clause that enables the MPS to operate the facility leaving no room for competition to be reviewed to allow for the 20 percent quota to stay, the MPS’ communication to the Director General of the GPHA on Wednesday, July 13, expressly indicated that the 20 percent share will remain for the next two years after which it ceases.
A move the workers’ unions vehemently stressed they opposed and will push for to be made to be renewable.
“We have been in this struggle over the past four years and while we will accept this new arrangement temporarily as a half a loaf being better than nothing in hand, we will monitor the implementation and if after the two-year period we may be compelled to use coercive force to get a renewal, we will,” Mr Kuivi told the workers.
“For now, we plead with you to go back to your work stations while we continue to push to ensure that the modalities for the implementation will be made available within the next week while we await August 1, 2022,” he added.
An attempt by the management of GPHA on Wednesday night to get the workers to allow an oil tanker vessel, a fruit vessel container, and other containerised vessels into berth saw a deployment of Police from the Tema Regional Police Command to impress upon them to vacate the port.
Led by the Regional Operations Director, Supt George Effah, he told the workers they were at the port to take over and therefore demand that they vacate the port, to which majority of the workers who were on night shift exclaimed they were on duty and therefore have the right to be there.
The situation however degenerated when the police insisted on enforcing the law, amidst pushing and manhandling of the workers, which saw one of the workers, Ebenezer Mensah collapsing to the floor and subsequently brought to the GPHA clinic inside the port where he regained consciousness after several hours.
Another worker of the Marine Unit, Kwasi Adu was also arrested and manhandled but was later released following an intervention by the union leaders.
Describing the action of the police as cruel, Mr Kuivi said that the Unions will take up the issue with the management of the Authority.
“We are not thugs neither are we hoodlums to have been handled in the manner in which the police did,” Mr Kuivi stressed.
Venting their anger at the Port Security Manager, Col Emmanuel Opare Nyante, Mr Kuivi said that the port is the working environment for the workers and if “we have concerns as, his duty as a security manager is to guide us by providing the needed security as against the brute force applied as if we were on a rampage to destroy the Authority’s property,” he bemoaned.
He however warned that the workers may be forced to advise themselves if there is a recurrence of the police assault.
The Chairman of the Junior Staff Union, Emmanuel Arhin Young for his part also said that whereas information within the Authority’s management sought to suggest that they intended to push for an extension of the 20 percent share beyond the 2024 expiration period, the unions are committed to establishing their own Monitoring Committee to monitor every stage of the implementation process.
“We will however continue to maintain the red flags around the port as well as our red attires for work until August 1, while also ensuring that the worker’s monitoring team with permission from the GPHA management be allowed into berthing meetings to monitor the movement of every vessel that comes into the port from the implementation date,” Mr Young said.
The Management of GPHA on the other hand in a statement issued by the General Manager in charge of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Esther Gyebi-Donkor is assuring the port community of a resumption of the vessel movement activities within the port.
Apologising to the trading community, the Authority she said regretted the hold-up of vessel operations in the port as a result of the industrial action embarked on by the workers.
Mrs Gyebi-Donkor clarifying the demands of the workers pointed out that the original concession agreement between MPS And GPHA signed in 2015 did not include the 20 percent container traffic share for GPHA.
“The 2015 contract allowed MPS to exclusively handle all container traffic, however, an appeal was made to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to intervene thereby culminating in a Cabinet decision in 2019 for MPS to cede the 20 percent share of container traffic to GPHA,” she said.
The GPHA Unions, she said however felt the implementation had been delayed, hence the agitation on July 12 and 13, 2022 culminating in the disruption of vessel services to the Shipping Lines and the importing public including exporters and transporters.
She assured the staff of the Authority of the management’s commitment to ensure effective implementation.
She also reiterates their resolve to continue delivering efficient services in a safe and secure environment to its valued stakeholders.