Dr. Nortey Omaboe - Executive Chairman of GCNet
Dr. Nortey Omaboe - Executive Chairman of GCNet
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The management of Ghana Community Network Service Limited (GCNet) has filed a motion at the Accra High Labour Court, challenging the enforcement of an arbitration award over the terms of a redundancy compensation payment to its workers.

The company is seeking the intervention of the High Court to set aside the award which directed the management to pay a redundancy package of 30 per cent of salary and other allowances including rent, transport, fuel, car maintenance, and education grant subsidies.

A three-member arbitration panel appointed by the National Labour Commission (NLC), last month ruled that all the workers affected by company’s ongoing redundancy exercise, be paid in accordance with provisions made in the firm’s Human Resource Policy Manual, signed between the GCNet management and the GCNet Staff Welfare Association in 2018.

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But the management wants the award set aside because the HR policy Manual was developed for administrative convenience and does not constitute a Collective Agreement between the management and GCNeT Staff Welfare Association, in addition to the fact that workers are not unionised and the association is unregistered.

The affidavit, filed at the Labour Division of the High Court yesterday, Monday 5, also affirms that the association  “lacked  capacity going  into the  arbitration  and  that  incapacity and illegality  renders the   resultant  award  null and  void and should  be  set aside  by the  court pursuant  to  section 58 of the  ADR  Act 2010 (Act 798).”

In addition, the statement of claim, filed by the Charles Bawa-Duah, counsel for management, asserts that although the critical issue of the incapacity of the association to legitimately present the workers, was raised by the management side at the arbitration session, it was ignored by the panel.

In view of the fact that the staff association illegitimately engaged in the formulation of the HR policy manual, that was erroneously considered as conditions of  service agreement, the management considers that the HR “agreement and the arbitration award  are null  and  void and of no effect since  they were the products of a non-existing legal  person and hence  illegal.”

“Since  the  Association is neither  registered as a trade union  nor as a body corporate, it had no  legal personally  and hence  no capacity  to  negotiate   the conditions of  service  agreement  for and on behalf of the  staff and to represent  the  staff or partake in the  arbitration  proceedings,” it avers.

Management is of the position that although the affected workers deserve a severance package, their redundancy payments must be done in a legitimate manner in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Act.

The management wants the intervention of the court because it believes that its submission to the effect that the workers are not unionized, and that the GCNet Staff Welfare Association is not a registered workers group and does not have a bargaining certificate to entitle it to enter into negotiations on redundancy terms, was glossed over by the arbitration panel.

“The  arbitration  panel  ignored the  objection  raised by the  Applicant  (management) as  regards  the   capacity  of the  Association   to represent  the workers, and proceeded to enter an award in favour of the  Association,” the management stated in their affidavit .

GCNet has a contract with the government of Ghana for trade facilitation services at the ports. The contract was due to end in 2023, but in early April 2020, the government notified GCNet of termination of the contract, upon which it asked the firm to demobilize by April 28, 2020.

In furtherance to the termination notice, GCNet declared redundancy, and in accordance with the Labour Act 651 (Act 2003), notified the Chief Labour Officer on plans for the redundancy exercise.

The company expressed readiness to pay redundancy compensation,and therefore requested a negotiation of the terms for the severance package, but the workers, who continue to engage in a series of industrial actions, refused to engage, insisting that the provisions in their HR Policy Manual be used to calculate the benefits.

But the management maintained that the terms in the manual cannot be used for the redundancy exercise, indicating that that document was not legally produced and does not properly relate to negotiated redundancy compensation in accordance with the labour law.

By Benjamin Nana Appiah / adrdaily.com