Organised labour yesterday protested against the Fast Track High Court ruling in the case between the National Labour Commission (NLC) and the Ghana Telecommunications Company Limited (GT).At a press conference and a workers' forum, the leadership said the ruling had “grave implications ..... for relative industrial harmony in the country”.
The Chairman of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr A.K. Bonney, the First Vice-Chairman, Mr John K. Frimpong, the acting Secretary-General of the TUC, Mr Kofi Asamoah, the Secretary-General of the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL), Mr Abraham Koomson, among others, were in attendance and in support of the common position of organised labour that was read.
Mr Kofi Asamoah, who addressed the press conference, said following a publication of the ruling in the Daily Graphic of Wednesday, February 13, 2008, organised labour obtained a copy and studied it.
The ruling of the court, he said, was that under the Labour Act 2003, the employer was not bound to provide reasons for the termination of employment, while a contract of employment could be terminated at any time with or without notice, provided the appropriate notice was served in accordance with the contract of employment.
“In the considered opinion of organised labour, the decision of the High Court, with due respect, does not reflect the true intentions of the relevant provision of the new Labour Law of the legislative history of the law,” Mr Asamoah said.
Delving into the legislative history of the law, he highlighted among other issues the fact that the law, a result of broad negotiations and consultations among all social partners, provided for peace and harmony of industrial relations through a balancing of their legitimate interest and gave details of their rights and responsibilities, including fair and unfair termination of contracts.
Mr Asamoah said the issue of fair and unfair termination of contracts had engaged the minds of the social partners during the negotiations.
“It was concluded and agreed ... that there was the need to shift from the old common law position that an employer was under no obligation to give reasons for terminating the employment of a worker to a new and modern approach,” he pointed out.
He said the outcome resulted in the provisions on the grounds of termination in sections 15, 62 and 63 of the Labour Act that was aimed at ensuring security of employment.
It said the new dispensation of the Labour Act 2003 was intended to address glaring injustices and abuses suffered by workers in an environment where the worker was vulnerable to the whims and caprices of the employer.
Drawing similarities between the new dispensation of the Labour Act and ILO Convention 158 that specifically requires employers to provide valid reasons for terminating employment contracts, Mr Asamoah said the High Court had to lead the way by giving effect to the good intentions of the framers of the Labour Act and the issue of human rights inherent in it.
On the court's ruling that the NLC could not itself assign redundancy as the reason for the termination of the employment contract by GT of its former employee, Mr Asamoah said it completely undermined the legal obligation on employers to negotiate and pay severance awards or redundancy pay when, as a result of a major restructuring, the employer decides to lay off workers.
Addressing a forum of workers later, the leadership asked workers to support it as it campaigned on the principles of the Labour Act 2003.
Some of the inscriptions on the pla cards were, “Honourable 'WIGS' cannot take workers for a ride”, “TUC says no to court judgement”, and “We no go sit down for judges to manipulate the Labour Act”.
Story by Caroline Boateng