By Gifty Arthur
Brong Ahafo Regional branch of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), have rejected claims that they called on President John Dramani Mahama, to dismiss Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni from his post as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Board during this year’s May Day Celebrations.
The workers, scattered in parts of the region where a good amount of Ghana’s cash crop is grown, said they habour no such sinister intention, and would take no such decision, because they see Dr. Opuni as a leader, who has their welfare and interest at heart, and committed to making the sector a formidable one.
They affirmed their unflinching support for Dr. Opuni, who the leadership of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) is accusing COCOBOD workers to form an in-house workers’ union to deny them a regular source of income by way of levies.
Reports in a section of the media, had claimed that during last Sunday’s May Day celebrations, the Brong Ahafo regional capital of Sunyani, recorded workers of COCOBOD parading anti-Opuni placards at the Jubilee Park calling for his dismissal, whose tenure has witnessed free hydrid Cocoa
seedlings, free fertilizer, free insecticide, producer price increments and bonuses to Cocoa farmers.
But in a press statement issued in Sunyani copied The Herald, the head of Special Services and Acting COCOBOD Workers Union Representative, Andrews Kyeremeh, denied they ever displayed such placards anywhere on the day.
He revealed, that their information from the grounds, indicated that the placards were issued by Regional Secretary of ICU, Mr. Otoo to a few quality control workers on that fateful day to serve their parochial interests.
“On Sunday May 1, 2016 (The May Day) some workers of Quality Control (QI) in Sunyani, were seen at the Jubilee Park, the venue of the Brong Ahafo Regional May Day parade, holding placards with various inscriptions, calling for the dismissal of Dr. Opuni.
According to Mr. Kyeremeh, during their investigation, they found out that it was an ICU regional executive, who transported the placards to the parade ground in the boot of his car to distribute to the quality control workers to create disaffection. This he said, was meant to promote the agenda of ICU and GAWU, who are battling COCOBOD workers in court for attempting to get break away from the two unions.
“We (COCOBOD workers) then at the park saw that the regional secretary of ICU, one Mr. Otoo, who had the placards at the boot of his vehicle, gave the placards to those selected QI workers”.
He went on “we are at this juncture emphasizing we do not know anything about the call for Dr. Opuni’s dismissal by those who had taken that stand, because of their parochial interests”, the statement.
They premised their position on a case at the Accra Human Right Court, where the court at the preliminary stage, has agreed that COCOBOD workers have the right to associate or disassociate as stated in the 1992 Constitution. The ICU about 20 years ago, broke away from the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
“This means [that] we workers of Cocoa Board in Sunyani are automatically no more members of ICU. Thus, the claim by the ICU Brong Ahafo Regional secretary in Sunyani that the Cocoa Board workers in Sunyani have called for the dismissal of Dr. Opuni is totally false and untrue”, the statement said.
He outlined a number of achievements Dr. Opuni has undertaken since 2013, when he moved the Food and Drugs Authourity (FDA) to the Ghana Cocoa Board.
They were particularly happy about the rehabilitation of cocoa roads, their home benefit package, which have been increased from 50 workers to 460 annually, adding “within the last two years, 920 cocoa board workers have benefited from that”.
The workers insist there is no turning back on their intention to form a new union, since ICU and GAWU, have failed to perform their work diligently as the leaders.
This paper’s sources, say over five thousand workers, have so far filled the forms to be part of the new union and they have already visited the Registrar General’s Department, to commence registration of the in-house union to be called, Cocoa Industry Workers Union, a voluntary association.
It is said that under the leadership of the Dr. Opuni, both workers at COCOBOD and the Cocoa farmers, have been made happy.