GMWU files an appeal at the Court of Appeal

Left: Prince William Ankrah, General Secreatary Ghana Mineworkers Union Right: Alfred Baku, Head of West Africa Region and Executive Vice President at Gold Fields Ltd.

The Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU) has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal and a stay of execution pending its hearing after an Accra High Court last Friday dismissed an interlocutory application by the union to stop a planned redundancy exercise by mining giant Goldfields Ghana Limited.

The union, in a statement copied to the B&FT said: “The judge handling the case, Her Ladyship Lorrinda Owusu at the Labour Court division of the High Court, gave her ruling on the matter today March 2, 2018 – much to the disappointment of the union.

“The judge, in her ruling, prioritised financial conveniences over the legal rights of our members. We respect the decision, but we disagree with it. We have since filed an Appeal at the Court of Appeal. We have also filed an application for stay of execution pending appeal.”

The GMWU pointed out that the ruling is a major wake-up call for the labour movement, as it defeats the President’s assertion on many platforms that he believes in decent and well-paid jobs.

Goldfields Ghana Limited last year announced its intention to undertake a redundancy exercise that was likely to affect the majority of its 2,300 workers at the company’s Tarkwa mines. This, according to the company, was to allow it to restructure operations, moving from owner-mining to contract-mining.

The GMWU has however resisted this move and sought legal redress at the High Court. In the suit filed, workers are of the view that reasons given by Goldfields for the planned redundancy do not meet the requirements for redundancy as stipulated in the Labour Act, 2013 (Act 651).

They also contended that the company unilaterally declared a redundancy exercise when the GMWU was still negotiating with it over the form of redundancy and category of workers to be affected.

But in her ruling the presiding judge, Her Ladyship Lorrinda Owusu, held that the mining company stands to suffer greater hardship if the application is granted, stating that the workers were not in a position to compensate Goldfields’ loss of earnings – which it claims amounts to US$50m per month – if the application was granted.

The trial judge was however of the view that Goldfields has the resources to compensate the workers if the application is refused and workers win the substantive case.

“In a series of affidavits forwarded to the court, the company continued to drum-up an unverifiable assertion that it is losing money on daily basis, and therefore prayed the court to permit it to lay-off – in their estimation – 1,700 employees and offer them an opportunity to seek their next fortune with the mining contractor.

“Indeed, the union finds it difficult to understand the basis of the ruling – when substantive procedural flaws raised in its affidavits were ignored,” the GMWU said in the statement.

Below is the full statement issued by the GMWU

MEDIA RELEASE

AS GOLD FIELDS GHANA’S LIES AND FACTS MISREPRESENTATION CONTINUES UNABATED, THE COURT SAYS THEY CAN THROW AWAY THE 2150 WORKERS!!

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It will be recalled that since November 2017, Ghana Mineworkers’ Union (TUCG) and Gold Fields Ghana Limited are locked-up in a dispute over the legitimacy of the former’s intent to pursue contract mining option in place of its current owner mining model with consequential severance ramifications on over 2,150 permanent employees.

The Union has since November 2017, contested the Company’s reasons and or justifications for the exercise and pointed out the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and the lies it was forcing down the throats of Government, the stakeholders and the market much to the chagrin and distaste of the Union which has in turn laid the facts bare to the industry’s stakeholder publics leading to a massive media warfare between the social partners.

Following the Company’s boisterous posturing and intransigent stance on the matter, the Union was pushed to file a suit on the matter in the Labour Court Division of the High Court of Ghana praying the Court for interlocutory injunction to restrain the Company from carrying out its intentions and the matter had since been pending before the Court awaiting a determination.

As the Parties continued to wait for the outcome of the Court case, the Company’s Corporate Office in Johannesburg, South Africa released a press statement on its global operations including its Ghana’s operation and typical of their character, lied again to the stakeholders  and the market. As a responsible Union and mindful of the debilitating impact of false information and facts misrepresentation, we are forced to set the records straight again on the issues.

On page two in the report released on February 14, 2018 titled ‘Media Release: 2017 Unaudited Results (Year Ended 31 December 2017)”, released by Mr. Nick Holland, the CEO under sub heading ‘West Africa,’ the Company opined that “During Q4 2017, a decision was made to move Tarkwa to contract mining. The rationale for the change include unsustainable wage increases and demands, increase in operational costs as the pits get deeper and haulage distances get longer; as well as the need to replace aging fleet. As part of the process and in terms of the Ghanaian labour law a retrenchment process will be initiated, though the contractor has agreed to re-employ a large number of the 1,700 affected employees”. The full report is available at: https://www.goldfields.com/media-releases.php

It is instructive at this stage for the Government, the market and the other stakeholders to note that the Company had already told the world that it was opting for contract mining because of two specific business reasons. These were shot span of its Life of Mine (LoM) and Aging Fleet (AF), which the Union disputed and subjected the Company’s claims to critical scrutiny and exposed the embedded lies hidden in the package its presented to the stakeholders.

In a desperate attempt to sound logical and defend the indefensible, the Company’s corporate office in South Africa is assigning new reasons of ‘unsustainable wage increases and demands’ as the last desperate and face-saving justification for its unpopular and profiteering intended contract mining model; forgetting that the chunk of the Company’s wage cost fuels the lavish opulence of its Management personnel, (the vanguards of exploitation). It must be noted that, the Union has published in its series on income inequality in the mining industry that, the top richest decile (10%) of Gold Fields employees (all Management personnel) share of the Company’s wage income was 47.2% compared with the 52.8% share for the rest of the of the employees.

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The Union wants to state unequivocally that, in all its deliberations with the Company on the issue, neither increase in operational nor labour cost was cited as a reason for its preference for contract mining. Therefore, the fleeting attempt by the Corporate Office to rewrite the facts of the issue is a diversionary tactic calculated to further confuse the stakeholders and the public and also draw undeserved public sympathy and it should be ignored.

Again, the Company had asserted that for 2018 operational year they had not put in place any plan of activity for Tarkwa because of its preference for the contract mining. This is inaccurate because Nick Holland in his press release vividly highlighted the various operational guidance for their mining regions across the globe including Tarkwa. For ease of reference, the 2018 operational guidance for Tarkwa is found at page 12 of his press release as follows:

  • “Gold Produced – 520,000 ounces. The lower gold is in line with the revised life of the mine
  • Capital Expenditure – US$162 million
  • All-in sustaining costs – US$970 per ounce
  • Total all-in cost – US$970 per ounce”

This is a further in the lying cup of the Company.

The judge handling the case, Her Ladyship Lorrinda Owusu at the Labour Court division of the High Court gave her ruling on the matter today March 2, 2018 much to the disappointment of the Union. The judge, in her ruling, prioritized financial conveniences over legal rights of our members. We respect the decision but we disagree with it. We have since filed an Appeal to the Court of Appeal. We have also filed an application for stay of execution pending appeal.

In a series of affidavits forwarded to the court, the Company continued to drum-up an unverifiable assertion that it is losing money on daily basis and therefore prayed the court to permit it to lay-off, in their estimation 1700 employees, and offer them the opportunity to seek their next fortune with the mining contractor. Indeed, the Union finds it difficult to understand the basis of the ruling where substantive procedural flaws raised in its affidavits were ignored.

The implications of the ruling for Ghana’s labour relation landscape is obvious and consequently requires a deeper reflection by all like-minded labour relation practitioners and also defeats the President of the Republic of Ghana’s assertion on many platforms that he believes in decent and well-paid jobs. It does become a major wake-up call for the labour movement in Ghana.

 

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