In-depth investigations by The Herald, have revealed the real reason behind the protest staged against COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni last week Thursday by workers of the West African Mills Company Limited (WAMCO), who had disguised themselves as members of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and the General Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU).
The Herald’s findings are that, the majority owners of WAMCO, who are Germans are indebted to the Ghana COCOBOD to the tune of a whopping US$50 million, but have refused to settle, and Dr. Opuni’s attempt to get the huge cash paid by the Germans, led them to stage the demonstrations with unsubstantiated claims of corruption leveled against him by the leaders of ICU.
The protest was with distressed workers of WAMCO, cloaked as members of ICU and GAWU. The Sekondi-Takoradi workers of WAMCO, as well as those based in Accra, had not been paid by their company for some months due to their management’s belligerence towards settling the US$50 million debt.
GAWU and ICU, had earlier vowed to prevent some workers of the COCOBOD from carrying out their threat to break away from the mother union. The two unions, described the action as an attempt by the workers to break its front, and accused the leadership of COCOBOD of victimizing its workers, who are against the break-away. They, therefore became vulnerable to the influence of WAMCO.
The COCOBOD boss, The Herald learnt, had started demanding for the US$50 million debt, by stopping the continuous supply of Cocoa Beans to the company, as a way of tightening the noose on them.
This paper is informed that, prior to the freeze on the supply of cocoa beans, many letters were written to the management of WAMCO by the Ghana COCOBOD, but the Germans treated the letters with disdain.
Letters were also written to the German Embassy in Accra by the management the Ghana COCOBOD. This The Herald learnt, was done after it became obvious WAMCO, were not ready to pay the US$50 million. Indeed, most of the German administrators of the company, had also relocated to Germany.
With the freeze on the supply of beans, and the company collapsing, as a result of not paying workers salary, the Germans quickly resorted to sell WAMCO to themselves, although COCOBOD, is one of the shareholders of WAMCO, and had not been involved in any discussions towards selling the company.
Meanwhile, the COCOBOD workers’ union, has dismissed calls by the ICU and GAWU for their CEO, Dr. Opuni, to be removed from office.
The ICU last Thursday, presented a petition to the Ministry of Employment and Labour relations, seeking the dismissal of Dr. Opuni, over what the union described as mismanagement of his portfolio.
The ICU, also alleged that the ineffectiveness of the COCOBOD boss, has resulted in the collapse of WAMCO.
The development follows a decision by the COCOBOD workers to break away from the ICU over its approach in dealing with workers’ welfare. The Chairman of the Supreme Consultative Council of COCOBOD, Alhassan Iddris, told Citi Business News, the allegations are unfounded.
“The ICU calling for the removal of Opuni is neither here nor there. Such a decision should rather be taken by stakeholders basically involving the government, we the workers of COCOBOD as well as the cocoa farmers if even there are problems,” he stated.
According to Alhassan Iddris, Dr. Opuni’s prudent management of the state institution has rather contributed to stabilizing the economy as it helped to restore the cedi following the US$1.7 billion and US$1.8 billion dollars cocoa syndicated loans contracted in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
“After assumption of office, Dr. Opuni has gone in for the syndicated loan of US$ 1.7 billion to stabilize the condition of the country’s economy, having credence, he was able to pay that money and went in for another US$1.8 billion that is ongoing and he will even finish paying that one too,” Alhassan Iddris added.
The COCOBOD workers union, at a press conference also indicated that it suspected of some political influence in the ongoing impasse between the union and the ICU.
Though he would not readily disclose the individuals or groups behind that, the union Chairman, hinted of some correspondences from the Employment Ministry, which the group says, it is uncomfortable with.
“The General Secretary of ICU is being engaged by the Employment Ministry and then consequently, letters are emanating from the Ministry, it can therefore be seen as if he is part of the development.
Also the President, has replied to the developments ensuing between the Ministry and the Ghana COCOBOD workers union, moreover you cannot respond to a letter in which you have been copied,” he explained.
He further stated, “It is alleged that some people like the Ministers and party members are part of it and with time we will come to let the whole world know whether it is true or not.”
The decision to break away from the ICU began in April this year, when the COCOBOD workers, raised concerns over the latter’s lack of commitment to their welfare.
At the time, the COCOBOD workers, cited attempts by the ICU to persuade its management to decline a thirty percent increase in salaries.
ICU was also cited for pushing for the Cocoa Marketing Company to be privatized and enhance efficiency. But the Chairman of the Supreme Consultative Council of COCOBOD, maintained that the Constitution of the country, permitted freedom of association, hence their decision to form a new union which at the time had about 2000 members.