GCNet goes to court over workers’ redundancy package

The Ghana Community Network Service Limited (GCNet) has filed a motion at the Accra High Court (Labour Division), challenging the enforcement of an arbitration award over the terms of a redundancy compensation payment to its workers.

The company is urging the court to set aside the award which directed the management of GCNet to pay a redundancy package of 30 per cent of salary and other allowances, including rent, transport, fuel, car maintenance, and education grant subsidies.

A three-member arbitration panel appointed by the National Labour Commission (NLC), last month ruled that all the workers affected by the company’s ongoing redundancy exercise, be paid in accordance with provisions made in the firm’s Human Resource (HR) policy manual, signed between the GCNet management and the GCNet Staff Welfare Association in 2018.

But the management wants the arbitration award set aside because the HR policy manual was developed for administrative convenience and does not constitute a collective agreement between the management and GCNet Staff Welfare Association, in addition to the fact that workers are not unionised and the association is unregistered.

In the motion, counsel for the applicant, Mr Charles Bawaduah said his client went to court because the panel ignored its objection regarding the capacity of the association to represent the affected workers and proceeded to deliver a verdict in favour of the respondent. 

It is the case of the applicant that the association  “lacked  capacity going  into the  arbitration  and  that  incapacity and illegality  renders the resultant  award  null and  void, and should  be  set aside  by the  court pursuant  to  section 58 of the  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)  Act 2010 (Act 798).”

Counsel contended that the staff association illegitimately engaged in the formulation of the HR policy manual, that was erroneously considered by the arbitration panel as conditions of service agreement, and that the arbitration award is null and void and of no effect.

Mr Bawaduah stated in the motion that, “since  the association is neither  registered as a trade union  nor as a body corporate, it had no  legal personally and, hence,  no capacity  to  negotiate the conditions of  service  agreement  for and on behalf of the  staff and to represent  the  staff or partake in the  arbitration  proceedings.”

He said although the affected workers deserve a severance package, their redundancy payments must be done in a legitimate manner in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Act.

GCNet has a contract with the government of Ghana for trade facilitation services at the ports. The contract was due to end in 2023, but in early April 2020, the government notified GCNet of termination of the contract, upon which it asked the firm to demobilise by April 28, 2020.

In furtherance to the termination notice, GCNet declared redundancy, and in accordance with the Labour Act 651 (Act 2003), notified the Chief Labour Officer on plans for the redundancy exercise.

The company expressed readiness to pay redundancy compensation and, therefore, requested a negotiation of the terms for the severance package, but the workers, who continue to engage in a series of industrial actions, refused to engage, insisting that the provisions in their HR policy manual be used to calculate the benefits.

But the management maintained that the terms in the manual cannot be used for the redundancy exercise, indicating that that document was not legally produced and does not properly relate to negotiated redundancy compensation in accordance with the labour law.


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