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28.01.2005 Business & Finance

Kpoh: Our doors are open for reconciliation

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Accra, Jan. 28, GNA - Mr Napoleon Kpoh, General Secretary of Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), on Thursday said the doors of the Union had all along been opened for genuine reconciliation with the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

He said that was why during the six months that it gave notice that it was to disaffiliate with the TUC it complied with all moves for an amicable settlement

The moves led to labour veterans of TUC intervening with the view to resolving the issue amicably and but for the entrenched stand of the TUC Leadership to see to the disintegration of ICU, peace and unity could have been achieved at the Labour Front.

Mr Kpoh was speaking to the GNA on a resolution the Accra Branch of ICU adopted in support of the mother union and other matters relating to its disaffiliation with the TUC.

He said there were unexplained core issues, which had made some media organisations and a section of the public, to paint the ICU black. He said it was unfortunate that sometimes when someone insisted that the right things should be done and stuck to principles he was seen as a rebel.

"What I have stood against all along is to legitimise an illegality as the TUC did by affiliating a breakaway Union from its mother union." Mr Kpoh said the ICU had challenged the TUC for affiliating a breakaway workers group on Article 10 clause 7 of 2000-2004 TUC Constitution at the courts, which upheld that it was wrong for TUC to affiliate the breakaway Union.

However the TUC circumvented the rules by amending that portion of its Constitution at a Congress and went ahead to affiliate the Union of Industry, Commerce and Finance (UNICOF) with the intent to disintegrate the ICU, he said.

The clause stated: "No eligible workers' organisation shall be denied affiliation to the TUC provided such affiliation shall not dismember any affiliated national union."

The amended clause now reads: "No eligible workers organisation shall be denied affiliation to the Ghana TUC provided the affiliation or association meets the requirements of this Constitution and the internal regulations."

Mr Kpoh said the original article had held the workers' front together and its amendment had opened the floodgates to breakaway unions to affiliate with the TUC.

Mr Kpoh said the confrontation he had with the TUC Leadership over the collection of 200 million cedis from the Government to educate workers on the National Health Insurance Scheme was the genesis of ICU's sore relations with the TUC.

He described the TUC action as a betrayal of workers' stand because all unionised labour had agreed to demonstrate against the scheme.

However, they heard from a Government statement that it had given 200 million cedis to the TUC to educate workers on the scheme thereby crippling workers' action.

Mr Kpoh said when the news on the 200 million cedis broke he could not believe it and so he confronted the TUC Leadership at an emergency meeting on the issue in September 2003.

He said the explanation was that the money had already been disbursed for what it was intended.

He said since that day the TUC Leadership bore him a grudge and, therefore, decided to teach the ICU a lesson and as a result when the UNICOF was formed by Mr Francis Davoh, who was then the Administrative Officer ICU, broke away the TUC readily gave its blessing to it and decided to affiliate it to the TUC.

Mr Kpoh explained that Mr Davoh, who was the Executive Secretary of the ICU, was demoted to Administrative Officer after it was found that an agreement he had negotiated on behalf of the ICU with the Pioneer Food Cannery Workers was inimical to the ICU.

He said during the ICU's Quadrennial Delegates' Conference in August 2003 Mr Davoh presented himself as a candidate to contest for the post of General- Secretary without following conference regulations and when that was brought to the notice of the delegates Mr Davoh left the conference with his supporters which amounted a coup d'=E9tat.

The TUC in a correspondence to the ICU dated June 23, 2004 and signed by Mr Adu-Amankwa said: "The efforts of the Mediation Committee did not bear much fruit because of the entrenched positions of the two parties.

"While the effort was underway, the breakaway faction had gone ahead to register a new union, UNICOF, while the ICU on its part initiated legal proceedings to challenge the right of those it still considered its members to register as a new union."

The correspondence said the Mediation Committee could not come out clearly with its findings to say that ICU did anything wrong to warrant the breakaway because it did not have the authority to arbitrate and make a ruling that would be accepted by the two parties.

"As a mediation committee between an affiliate and a group that had broken away from that affiliate, the committee saw its role as that of trying to narrow differences between the two parties with the view to bringing them together.

"However, as a result of the fixed positions of the two parties on the matter, the committee reported its inability to mediate the differences between the ICU and the breakaway group to the Steering Committee."

Mr Kwaku Darko-Aferi, Head of Public Affairs Section of the TUC, told the GNA that the TUC's affiliation law was amended to make the TUC to move from mediation to arbitration in cases of breakaways in line with the new Labour Law.

He said he collected the cheque for the 200 million cedis and that Mr Kpoh and the ICU were at a meeting that agreed to take the money from the Government.

Mr Francis K. Davoh, General Secretary of UNICOF, told GNA that with the new Law all unions should know that more workers' unions would be formed and they had to be ready for competition.

He said if that was not done "organisations will not grow and now that the UNICOF has broken away from the ICU, it is proven that the UNICOF can do better".

Mr Davoh, who was explaining issue of UNICOF's affiliation to the TUC, which had led to the problem between the ICU and the TUC, said: "Technically the UNICOF is not a breakaway group from the ICU because I am the only worker, who resigned as a staff of ICU to form UNICOF."

He said the excellent way UNICOF had taken off, meant that it could kill the ICU.

He said it was not true that he was bribed in his handling of the labour action between the Workers and the Management of Pioneer Food Cannery (PFC).

"The best that could be done within the circumstances was to come out with an agreement that would give security to 18 workers, who were to be dismissed by the PFC Management and yet that effort did not satisfy the Leadership of ICU," he said.

Mr Davoh said it was Mr Kpoh, who had lured him to work with the ICU and it was, therefore, unfortunate that he later on turned against him and when he wanted to contest him for the General-Secretary position of ICU, he was "unconstitutionally prevented from doing so at the quadrennial delegates' conference in August, 2003.

"I subsequently resigned from the ICU to form the UNICOF."

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