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22 September 2016

Angry workers of Aveyime Rice Project demand salaries

aveyimeRetrenched workers of Prairie Volta Limited (PVL), formerly known as the Aveyime Rice and the Quality Grain Project, have made a passionate appeal to the government to pay them their salary arrears and entitlements totalling about GHC600,000.

The last salary received by the workers was their November 2014 salary, which was paid a year later in December 2015.

They listed a litany of problems that had befallen them because their salaries had not been paid, including their inability to pay back bank loans, divorces, and their inability to send their children to school and cater for their families.

The government owns 60 per cent shares of PVL as the majority shareholder (30 per cent directly through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and 30 per cent indirectly through the GCB Bank), while PVL owns the rest.

The workers, who took turns to speak with the Daily Graphic, said their patience had run out as the many promises made to them by the government since they received their last pay in December 2015 had not been fulfilled.

PVL started operation in May 2008 with 200 permanent staff and between 300 and 400 casual staff, depending on the work at hand, but pruned the number down to 186 in 2014. Currently, however, only an 11-member staff is holding on to the dying embers and they are working as volunteers.

Petition

The workers also showed a copy of a petition dated November 27, 2015, which was presented to the District Chief Executive of North Tongu, Madam Fafa Agbai, and copied to the DCEs of Central and South Tongu, Madam Mary Ama Theodora Agbenyenu and Mr Samuel Mawuko Eworyi, respectively, as well as the Members of Parliament for both areas, in which they channelled their grievances to the authorities.

It stated that: “Besides the unwarranted liability placed on PVL’s balance sheet, the Government of Ghana has to date failed to honour most of the promises it made to Prairie Texas Inc (PTI), USA, in 2008 when PTI came to Ghana to revive the defunct Aveyime rice project.”

Workers’ plea

A procurement officer of the near defunct PVL, Mr Mensah Delali Hammond, said even without pay the workers displayed a high sense of ­­­­­­­commitment before they were laid off in May 2015.

“We want the government to fulfil all the promises it has made to us. The company can feed the whole of Ghana and even beyond and minimise our importation of rice and grow our agriculture,” he said.

The secretary of the company, Ms Vida Edem Kaka, told the Daily Graphic that “the wives of most of the retrenched workers have left them. Our children are out of school and life is very miserable for us”.

She, therefore, appealed to the government to come to the aid of the staff of PVL.

Deteriorating conditions

Ms Kaka recounted that conditions began deteriorating in 2011 when workers had to wait for about two months before their salaries were paid.

She disclosed that initially, salaries were paid by the investor, PTI, until the company started harvesting. “We started using the money from production to pay salaries until a flood submerged all our crops because the canal that we discharged the water into was flooded by the Volta River, so there was no way we could discharge water from the rice for harvesting,” she said.

Ms Kaka said from then on the company struggled to pay its workers until 2013 when they could no longer be paid and both the investor, Mr Anderson, and the finance manager left the country and company.

“As we sit here, most of the workers are in the house. Unfortunately, we had to do an unfair redundancy by letting staff, our beloved staff, go home without paying their salary arrears. Because we are peaceful workers, we have thought it over that we should be in the house so that whenever the money is available, we pay them. Their departments are non-operational so if they come around, they do nothing but at the end of the day you have to pay them,” she narrated.

 

Source: Graphic.com.gh

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