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16.03.2009 General News

CEPS contest security agency status

CEPS contest security agency status

Workers of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) have asked the Supreme Court to review its decision of February 11, 2009 that CEPS is a security agency and, therefore, its workers cannot be allowed to join or form a union.

An application filed by the National Labour Commission (NLC) with the Public Services Workers Union of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) said "the majority decision would perpetuate an exceptional miscarriage of justice on CEPS workers".

Stating their case, the defendants said since the re-organisation of CEPS under PNDCL 330, it had operated as a paramilitary institution within the public service, just like the Ghana National Fire Service and the Ghana Immigration Service.

Employees of CEPS also contributed to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), unlike the other security services like the Armed Forces, the Police Service, the Prisons Service and the agencies specified under Act 526 who retire under the non-contributory Pension Ordinance No. 42, CAP 30.

Moreover, the enabling statutes of security agencies such as the Armed Forces under Act 526 made such agencies "pensionable officers under CAP 30".

"Any imposition of security status on CEPS workers, without a crafted legislation, will deny the workers the right to enjoy the non-contributory CAP 30 pension scheme, just like their contemporaries," the application said.

Reinforcing the point, it said the government itself, in its White Paper accepting the "Report of the Presidential Commission on Pensions in July 2006, had stated that "with the coming into effect of the new pension system, no new entrants would be allowed to join CAP 30, except those presently allowed under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana".

The application said there was no equity in the Supreme Court's decision that imposed security status obligation on CEPS workers without the corresponding security status and privileges. .

"It is submitted that imposing full security status on CEPS workers, in the absence of a well crafted law to deal with their benefits and entitlements, leaves the fate of the workers' economic and social interests hanging, unless this honourable court makes consequential orders directed at the government to enact full security status enabling law for CEPS commensurate to that of the other security agencies," it said.

The application further said by the Supreme Court's interpretation of Act 526 and Article 24 (4) of the 1992 Constitution to impose security service status on CEPS in the absence of an enabling law, as was the case for other agencies under the act, it had imposed on itself an open legislative power not envisaged by the Constitution.

It said if full security status was to be conferred on CEPS workers, then the appropriate bill that expressly included the social and economic implication of the conferral of such a status should be prepared by the government for Parliament to "create CEPS as a security service with all the privileges and benefits attached to security service status, instead of judge made laws that are wholly limited in detail".

The application said the government, employers associations and labour unions, in deliberating on the Labour Act 651, examined the various roles of all security agencies and came to the decision to leave CEPS out of workers who could not unionize in Section I of the act, although that was not expressly stated.

It added that the framers of the act had also introduced a section that prohibited strikes or lock-out actions by workers and employers engaged in providing essential services and these were listed in its regulations.

The application said what could be done was for CEPS to be designated as an essential service and prohibited from strikes or lock-out actions.

It said creating CEPS as a security agency without regarding the social and economic implications was "a grave injustice".