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General News of Wednesday, 29 November 2000

Source: GNA

EC denies impending strike action

A senior official of the Electoral Commission (EC) on Wednesday said it is not aware of an impending strike by its staff. "The commission is not aware of it (planned strike) and was surprised about the report," Mr K. Safo-Kantanka, EC Deputy Chairman for Finance and Administration, said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra.

He was referring to a report by an Accra-based newspaper that the workers were planning to strike because of undue delay in the payment of their fringe benefits. Mr Safo-Kantanka said the Central Management Board (CMB) in October approved 4.4 billion cedis as fringe benefits for EC staff and the necessary documents have been forwarded to the Director of Budget of the Ministry of Finance.

The benefits, which cover the period January 1999 to December 2000, were approved after negotiations based on the Public Sector Organisations Collective Bargaining Agreement.

They include day trip allowance, special overtime allowance for drivers, clothing, vehicle maintenance and tools allowances and special overtime for electoral exercises. Mr Safo-Kantanka said the commission has had fruitful deliberations with the finance ministry and the appropriate letters would be issued in due course.

He, however, explained that the approved fringe benefits are new requests made by the commission to boost the morale of workers to achieve their best. Mr Safo-Kantanka said the CMB's approval took retrospective effect, hence the seemingly long period for the money to be paid.

He said the apparent anxiety of workers to cash their money before voting is carried out is uncalled for "as everything possible has been put in place to ensure that our staff do not suffer in any way."

In another development, the General Secretary of the Public Services Workers Union (PSWU) of the TUC, Mr A. T. D. Okine, in a letter to the Ministry of Finance dated November 14, appealed to the Minister to release the funds to end the low morale and frustration of EC workers.

He said: "In our view, therefore, this will not augur well for the December 2000 elections and subsequently the image of our country." "PSWU recognises that the workers are really concerned about the seeming delay in implementing the newly signed Collective Agreement between the EC management and the union," Mr Okine said, and called on the ministry to address those concerns.

A resolution passed by the 10 regional branches of the local PSWU of the EC on November 7, and copied to the Minister of Finance, appealed to him to end the uncertainty in the minds of workers on the fringe benefits.