Three years ago a group of five Indian workers arrived in Ghana to make a living at a local steel company located near the capital of this West African nation. But today they have ended up as paupers and living on their neighbours’ benevolence.
Niyaz Ahamad, one of the five men, told IANS: “We have to borrow money from the neighbours here because the company has stopped paying our salaries.”
“Shop owners in the neighbourhood have shown understanding to our plight and sell to us on credit hoping that we would be able to pay them when we finally get paid which we do not know when.”
They received their last payment in July 2011. “Since then, we have been left to our fate and it has been really difficult for us since we do not have any source of income,” Ahamad said.
Western Steel and Forgings Limited (WSFL), located in Tema city, had recruited the Indians to work in their two steel plants in Tema and Takoradi in the western region on a $1,400 monthly salary on a two-year contract. They were promised return tickets on the expiry of their contracts.
“After the end of the second year, they asked us to stay on. On December 30, 2011 we were issued letters terminating our contracts,” said Ahamad, who belongs to Bihar and used to be a pit engineer in Punjab.
The letter, signed by the company’s chief executive Pius R Tamakloe stated: “Following the current financial challenges that the company is going through, the accounts department has been advised to prepare your final emolument and pay same by January 6 (this year)”. But since then, the affected workers claimed to have been paid nothing.
Ahamad said the company in a letter claimed that it had turned necessary to restructure the manpower “since we are over-staffed”.
“The extension of our contracts was not put down in writing because the officer in charge kept telling us that it was on his computer and all he had to do was to print it out for us. We believed him,” Ahamad said, adding: “But this turned out to be untrue and no one is helping us in any way.”
These men are today worried to see how those involved with their recruitment, who are Indians and work for the company, are least bothered about their fellow countrymen’s plight.
Shailesh Kumar Singh from Chhattisgarh is another affected Indian worker. He said he did not receive a termination letter but a text message, which is not the standard practice.
“For the moment, my colleagues and l do not want anything from the company. All we want us our pay and ticket to return home. I have a wife and four children back home and cannot afford to remain longer in Ghana to suffer,” he said.
Attempts by IANS to speak to WSFL’s management proved futile as security officials at the company’s headoffice in Tema kept repeating for three days the managers were not in the office.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)