The management of Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) has filed an application for appeal against the recent Labour Court ruling that directed the company to pay redundancy compensation based on provisions in its Human Resource Policy Manual.
The Accra High Court (Labour Division), on February 1, 2021, upheld an arbitral award by the National Labour Commission, which the management was challenging to ensure that the redundancy compensation was properly negotiated and paid in accordance with provisions of the Labour Act.
The management strongly believes that the Labour Court inappropriately determined the matter, which has been at the core of the disagreement between management and laid-off workers over arrangements for payment of their redundancy compensation.
The application for review, filed at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday by Counsel for management Mr. Bede Tukuu, is seeking a reversal of the ruling on seven grounds.
Stipulating the grounds for appeal, the application avers that the Labour Court erred in law by holding that a worker’s association (GCNet Staff Welfare Association) is different from trade union under the law; indicating that the holding of the court is contrary to the legal definition of a trade union under section 175 of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651).
Also, it avers that the court erred in law by holding that the GCNet Staff Welfare Association has the capacity to represent the workers and to collectively bargain and negotiate with management on behalf of the workers, although the association is not a registered and certified union.
“This holding by the court is contrary to provisions of sections 83, 84, 88, 96 and 99 of the Labour Act 2003 (651), which preserves the right to collective bargaining to only workers, unions or associations registered and certified under the Act,” the application states.
Similarly, it states that the court wrongly held that the Appellant failed to promptly object to the capacity of the GCNet Staff Welfare Association during the arbitration proceedings at the Labour Commission, describing the court’s position as “against the weight of evidence”.
Furthermore, it indicates that the court “misdirected itself in law by failing to apply the authority of Nartey-Tokoli and others versus Volta Aluminium Corporation (No. 2) (1989-90)2 GLR page 341, to declare the GCNet staff welfare manual invalid.”
“The Supreme Court in Nartey-Tokoli (supra) decided among other things that a conditions of service document or collective agreement negotiated by an uncertified union or association of workers is null and void,” it states.
According to counsel, the Court’s ruling largely flies in the face of the Labour Act, expressing fear that it will create anarchy in the labour industry regarding the formation of trade unions if it is allowed to stand.
Meanwhile, the management has reiterated its commitment and readiness to pay the redundancy compensation once the legal processes are completed.
“Our aim is not to deny any worker compensation, but to ensure that we conduct the full redundancy exercise in accordance with the law so as to avoid any difficulty in government refunding the money,” said Mr. Alwin Hoegerle, General Manager of GCNET.
The redundancy exercise was triggered by government’s abrogation of its trade facilitation service contract with GCNet, effective May 31, 2020.