Yesterday, some drivers’ unions in Accra stunned the general public when they introduced an element of intimidation into an otherwise civil privilege of demonstration and a sit-down strike.
Abeka, Lapaz, Ablekuma, Ashaiman as well as the Central Business District of Accra were manifestly notorious for acts of mayhem and vandalism as well as assault on some drivers who also had a right to belong or not to belong to a union, apart from their right to work as independent actors working with independent commercial companies.
While they succeeded in making some impact with their demonstration, they also went on record as causing unnecessary traffic from Kasoa to Accra, Achimota to Accra and the Business District of Accra generally.
Unfortunately, the ‘demonstration’ came against a background of efforts that were intended to contrive an enduring solution to the perennial increases in fuel prices, which we cannot deny tend to inflict pain on ordinary citizens, including the drivers and transport owners.
As it was, nobody knew how long the ‘demonstration’ was going to take, taking place at a period everybody was virtually on the move in view of the approaching Christmas festivities which come with a lot of economic activity.
That is also aside of the fact that schools are still open and pupils, students and teachers and lecturers also winding down.
Before yesterday’s action, we had heard the drivers’ unions were engaging state actors, and that the talks had broken down. The unions therefore decided to go on a strike to make government feel the heat and buckle down.
That was their right as far as we at the Daily Statesman are concerned. Unfortunately, in exercising that right they went into tantrums, assaulting colleague drivers, causing traffic and almost bring economic activity to its knees in the Business District of Accra.
Significantly, unions in other parts of the country showed some tolerance and sense of democracy as well as pragmatism in observing the notice to strike. In Kumasi and Techiman and some other areas where the economies are equally vibrant, it was decided to allow members to decide whether or not to join the ‘demonstration’ since the point had already been made.
At certain points, police had to intervene to prevent the situation from blowing up. Particularly where attempts were made to set blockades, the police was swift in reminding the rampaging union leaders or bookmen of the need not to get into excesses.
While we commend the police and other union leaders across the regions who exercised discretion, we would still urge the drivers’ unions to get back to negotiations.
As far as we are aware, the Trades Union Congress and other labour organisations are still engaged in seeking a permanent solution on mechanisms for ensuring that fuel prices are managed to support rather than disrupt economic activity.
It is, therefore, the opinion of the Daily Statesman that we take politics out of the negotiations and allow cool heads and sound minds to guide the search for that abiding mechanism.
We also believe the sector ministry owes it a duty to the public to explain the issues to the unions and, for that matter, the general public, in reducing the tension as visited on workers, market people and ordinary citizens yesterday.
We have nothing to lose engaging one another, and we must learn to continue engaging regardless of obstacles that confront the processes.