Business News of Friday, 21 May 1999
Accra (Greater Accra) 21 May '99
The management of Ashanti Goldfields Company (AGC) said on Thursday that Ghana loses 700,000 dollars in export revenues for every day that a strike at the Obuasi mines continues.
"More importantly, this situation cannot help government efforts at attracting investment into this country," it said in a statement issued by Mr James Anaman, General Manager, Corporate Affairs.
"There has clearly been a breakdown of law and order, a situation which cannot augur well for the development of the country," AGC said.
The company said there has been no production at the mine, the biggest in the AGC Group, since "a minority of Obuasi mineworkers and other individuals" began a demonstration and blocked access to the mine on May 14.
They also prevented shipments of gold from leaving the mine.
"The strikers have even prevented sick patients from visiting the Obuasi hospital and have attempted to prevent nurses from carrying out their duties at the hospital.
"They have prevented other officials from providing essential services such as operating the underground pumps which prevent the underground mines from flooding.
"They have threatened to cut off supplies of electric power and water to residential areas and communities that depend on the mine."
On the main demand of the strikers - wage increase - AGC said wages of workers of the company had been indexed to the dollar.
Under this system, their wages have increased by 25 per cent over the last two years, going up from 295,000 cedis on May one 1997 to 370,000 this month.
In addition, in May last year, Ashanti paid a lump sum of 250,000 cedis to each of the Obuasi mine workers, which is equal to a six per cent rise.
"The latest package agreed with the Mineworkers' Union provides for further benefits equivalent to a 10 per cent increase."
These include a lump sum payment of 317,500 cedis, compared with the average wage of 370,000 cedis, a life insurance scheme funded by AGC which is equivalent to three per cent rise in pay and "an aggressive bonus scheme which rewards productivity."
"A typical underground worker at Obuasi can earn 900,000 cedis per month including the basic wage and production bonus.
"In addition, he gets an annual production bonus of not less than 400,000 cedis."
AGC said a good number of employees have access to subsidised housing, medical benefits and scholarship schemes.
AGC said while the wages at the mine have increased, the price of gold had collapsed from 376 dollars per ounce on January 1 1997 to 275 dollars an ounce this month.
It said the decision of central banks and IMF to sell huge quantities of gold and Asian financial crisis had made demand for gold weak. The Asian region represents the largest demand for gold.
Despite this, it said, AGC has not laid off any of the over 9,000 workers at the mine while mines in other countries have laid off workers.
AGC said the mine is not even producing enough cash flow to pay for the capital investment in the future of Obuasi and major investments there, are being paid for from loans.
It said has it not been the lower cost of production from other group mines such as Bibiani and Siguiri in (Guinea), Ashanti would have been unable to pay dividends to its shareholders.