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23.03.2004 General News

We No Go Sit Down! - GT Workers

Listen to article "Gang of 3 plan to kill off" their source of livelihood Today is a big day for the future of telecommunications in Ghana. A fast track court would be hearing a case brought by Malaysian and other shareholders against Ghana Telecom (GT).

Yesterday was another landmark day as workers of Ghana's premier telecom company, GT, embarked on a peaceful internal demonstration not against the government or their bosses, but to voice their concerns about the impact of the current court case against their company by the minority shareholder.

This is unprecedented in Ghana's labour history where workers have put loyalty to company before any other consideration.

Telekom Malaysia and their local counterparts, G-com, have filed a writ restraining Ghana Telecom from accessing a $150m loan from Alcatel Shanghai-Bell, China and a further $60 from local banks to improve what every Ghanaian agrees is an abysmal service.

Since the Ghana Government went into management agreement with Telenor, a Norwegian leader in the telecommunications world, much has happened towards improving the service delivery of the company.

The facilities from Alcatel and the Ghanaian banks would have been the first major investment to get GT off its feet in a big way.

Since the Malaysians took over in the nineties, GT's operations have been shrouded in clouds of uncertainty. The share structure has come under suspicion. A GT worker asked whether there are "hidden shareholders" in addition to the Ghana Government's 70% shares, Telekom Malaysia's 25% and the 5% shares belonging to three Ghanaians, namely Alhaji Mohammed Said Seidu Sulemana of Sulana Engineering, Michael Atipoe of Giant Intenational and Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor of NCS.

The "hunu-hunu"in the industry is that these three Ghanaians may not have paid up and may even be fronting for some other people. Questions are also being asked whether the Malaysians themselves did not make "certain politically motivated" decisions when they had a domineering presence on the GT board.

The communication sector was treated so shabbily in the eighties and nineties that some people are now calling for a probe into how the National Communications Authority gave Mobitel juicy frequencies on a silver platter to the detriment of Ghana Telecom.

The probe, they say should cover how the GT shares came to be divided up. The government may yet have to go to the bottom of this intriguing saga of the country's telecom sector.

The immediate effect of today's legal action is to put on hold Ghana Telecom's expansion programmes, a terrible impact on Ghana's ICT future. Ghana Telecom presently has close to 300,000 fixed lines and hoped to expand it to 400,000 with the facilities the Malaysians and their Ghanaian collaborators are saying the court should deny GT.

In the mobile sector, the present mobile number of around 230,000 was expected to rise to 750,000. An optical fibre network (broad band) to cover the whole of Ghana has also been put on hold. Novelties in the intelligent network platform are also on hold.

The Ghana Telecom workers say that if an amicable and satisfactory resolution to this problem is not found, the ultimate loser will be they the ordinary workers, hence their peaceful internal demonstration yesterday.

The Union Chairman Mr. Clottey appealed for calm but urged all concerned to resolve this matter once and for all.

Agitated and troubled workers who remained calm during the demonstration carried placards with inscriptions like "Gang of 3 plan to kill Ghana Telecom", "Court case hampering Ghana's ICT Programme", "Court case paralyzing Ghana Telecom", "Ghana Telecom staff fate in balance" etc.

Today's action is yet again a positive reflection of how far democracy and the rule of law have advanced under the three-year Kufuor Administration, where a law court is being relied on to be the arbiter in a purely business dispute between a company and its shareholders, even though the action is clearly injurious to the government's interest of modernising its ICT sector.