The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has dragged the Attorney-General (AG) and the National Labour Commission (NLC) to court on the purported registration and recognition of the bank's Senior Staff Association (SSA) as a labour union.
In the statement of claim, the BoG said it came to its notice that the AG had purported to register the BoG's SSA as a trade union.
Following that, it brought to the notice of the AG and the NLC that it was against the law, particularly Article 24 (3), (4) of the 1992 Constitution, and also Section 79 of the Labour Act 2003.
Article 24(3) of the 1992 Constitution guarantees for employees the right to join a trade union for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests; while (4) bars any restrictions on the exercise of the right except those prescribed by law, in the interest of national security and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
While Section 79 of the Labour Act 2003 also guarantees freedom of association, it also sets out some classes of workers who must first reach an agreement with their employers before joining trade unions.
The BoG said based on the law, the conditions precedent for the formation or joining of a trade union by a worker were the individual decision by each employee and the prior agreement between the employer and the employee as to the class of employees qualified, in accordance with the law, to join the trade union.
Moreover, the bank pointed out that by the constitution of the association, its membership consisted of officers above the rank of sub-officer to the Governor who were deemed to be members of the association on employment or upon promotion to the officer class.
The bank maintained that it drew the attention of the NLC to the fact that the decision to unionise had to be an individual one and that the internal association of the bank could not be changed or converted to a trade union.
It said there was no prior agreement between itself and the interested employees as to the class of workers who could be members, in accordance with law.
It concluded that the membership of the purported registered trade union included employees in grades and governorships disqualified by the law from forming or joining a trade union, while the NLC could not legitimately accept the constitution of the association as that of a trade union.
The bank said the NLC, in a letter dated March 28, 2007, conceded the issues raised by the bank but said in its (the NLC's) view, due process had to be adhered to in accordance with law for the unionisation of interested employees.
The NLC then summoned the BoG to appear before it and the issue of the legality of the purported registration of the association as a trade union was raised.
The BOG said in a subsequent letter of January 14, 2008, the NLC stated that the trade union certificate issued by the Chief Labour Officer was valid and “shall remain”, while the constitution of the BoGSSA submitted to the Chief Labour Officer for the issuance of the certificate did not reflect the character of a trade union constitution.
The NLC, therefore, directed the executive of the BoGSSA to amend the constitution and draw a new one, in accordance with Section 83 of the Labour Act 2003, and also determine the class of employees to be covered by the collective bargaining certificate (CBA).
It also asked the BoGSSA to apply to the Chief Labour Officer for a CBA in accordance with the law.
The bank said all the directives in the letter were contrary to law and that the NLC had threatened to continue with the illegality unless restrained by an order of the court.
It, therefore, sought a declaration that the registration of the BoGSSA by the Labour Department and its subsequent recognition by the NLC was not in accordance with law.
It also asked for a declaration that the findings and directives of the NLC in its letter of January 14, 2008 were not in accordance with law, an injunction to restrain the AG, the NLC and their officers, servants and agents from further acts of disobedience and non-compliance with the law and an order of injunction restraining their officers, servants and agents from recognising and dealing with or holding out the said association as a trade union.
Story by Caroline Boateng