A leading member of Ghana?s Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) has demanded that President John Atta-Mills? administration rescinds the recent sharp utility rate increases describing them as an unbearable burden on business as well as the average Ghanaian.

Gilbert Awinongya said despite repeated attempts the government failed to consult or negotiate with the ICU before the announcement and implementation of the rate hikes.

?The PURC, which is the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission which is a legal entity but (was) set up by the government, increased utility prices so high industries and domestic consumers were unable to bear. When we raised the petition to them, they came out to admit that there were errors in it. And so we are demanding that if there are errors they should return to the status quo, which means the old tariffs while the stake holders should meet and discuss what the acceptable levels should be,? he said.

Ghana's President Professor John Evans-Attah Mills
Ghana's President Professor John Evans-Attah Mills

The ICU Thursday presented a petition to the government demanding a return to the ?status quo?, saying the rate hikes will kill businesses.

Members as well as supporters of the ICU protested across Ghana saying the ?astronomical? rate hikes would put more financial constraints on the average Ghanaian worker.

The Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) said the rate hikes were necessary because utility companies need more cash to provide top-quality service to consumers.

The utility increases included an 89 per cent hike for electricity tariffs and 36 per cent for water.

Despite welcoming the rate increases, President John Atta-Mill?s administration has admitted that they would be harsh on a large segment of the population.

Some analysts questioned the timing of the rate hikes saying the increments will have a negative impact on the economy by undermining Ghana?s recent inflation decline.

ICU leader Awinongya said the recent rate hikes sent a message of insensitivity on the part of President Atta-Mills? government towards the plight of the average Ghanaian.

?The government must invite all stakeholders and not only GTUC (Ghana Trade Union Commission)?When the government invites all of us, which is the Association of Ghana Industries, the Ghana Employers Association?then we can all sit down and see what will be the acceptable levels that industries can be able to survive and workers not be laid off,? Awinongya said.