Tango Over ECG Sale, Court Rules October 31
An Accra High Court has set October 31 to deliver its ruling on a motion for interlocutory injunction challenging moves by the government to hand over the operations of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to a concessionaire.
The court’s decision is excepted either to give the government the go- ahead with the bidding process or to stop same.
The motion is intended to restrain the selecting of a concessionaire for taking over the operations of ECG.
The applicants are also seeking to prevent the government from engaging individual employees of ECG on any redundancy deal.
The Thousand and one ECG workers are asking the Labour Court to declare that sending ECG workers, including the plaintiffs, on permanent transfer constitutes a redundancy.
Mr. Benedict Kanose, a worker of the ECG, is leading the workers as the first plaintiff, while the Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) is the second plaintiff, with the ECG, the Attorney General and the MiDA as the defendants.
In moving the motion in the court presided over Justice Lorenda Owusu, Martin Kpebu, lawyer for the workers said per the Request for Proposal documents he has sighted, only 6,000 of the workers of ECG had been assured of five years of employment after the deal.
He stated that section 65 of the Labour Act enjoins the employer under such circumstances to declare redundancy insisting that it is strange for ECG and the government to say that there would be no redundancy.
Mr. Kpebu noted that if the action of the respondents was allowed by the court, some 3,000 more staff of ECG would suffer. He said the respondent have not been able to demonstrate that the bidder could guarantee the safety of the employment of the staff.
Cephas Gharlley, lawyer for ECG in opposing the motion said that an order for injunction is not just an order but one that demands that the applicants show why it ought to be granted.
He stated that the ECG staff have stated that the contract they seek to stall would be of benefit to the company.
The ECG lawyer claimed that the plaintiffs have again indicated that the compact is for the public good adding “Do you praise a compact and turn round to say that it should be stopped?”
While urging the court to dismiss the motion, he said it was only the employer of the plaintiffs who could declare redundancy under the Labour Act.
Mr. Gharlley was of the view that until ECG declares redundancy, no worker could talk about redundancy insisting that the fears of the applicants are unfounded.
He contended that the applicants have failed to make a case to justify the grant of the injunction.
Godfred Yeboah-Dame, a Deputy Attorney-General among others argued that the case of the applicants is frivolous which shows no cause of action.
He said the contract would see the generation of power to augment what the country is currently producing.
Victoria Barth, representing the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) said before a court would grant an injunction, the applicants must prove that there is a question to be answered.
She said that the mere fact that the company is given for a contract does not mean that was a redundancy.
She disclosed the applicants are seeking to stop a deal consisting six different contracts. Ms Barth stated that it was too early for the workers to think of redundancy saying the application before the court is frivolous and vexatious, one that has to be dismissed.
The workers are also asking for a declaration that the decision by the Minister of Energy to conduct redundancy negotiations with individual employees of the ECG, including the plaintiffs, is illegal and constitutes a gross violation of Section 65 of the Labour Act.
That section of the Labour Act requires that negotiations for redundancy pay must be conducted between the employer and the workers union, among other provisions, and also constitutes unlawful interference with trade union activities.
The plaintiffs are praying for an order directed at the defendants to comply with the provisions of the Labour Act, go through the proper redundancy process as laid down in Ghana’s laws and pay the plaintiffs redundancy pay (severance package) in accordance with the stipulation in the law and the collective agreement between the workers and the ECG.
They are also seeking a perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants, their assigns and privies from continuing with the Compact Agreement between the government of Ghana and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on August 5, 2014 for the reform of the electricity distribution sector of Ghana by, among other issues, appointing a concessionaire to take over the distribution of electricity from the ECG and related agreements.
A further declaration that the failure of the ECG and the Attorney-General to declare a redundancy in the ECG, pursuant to their plans to hand over the business of the ECG to a concessionaire, constitutes a breach of the contract of employment between the plaintiffs and the ECG is also being sought.
Damages for breach of contract, costs, including solicitor’s fees, and other reliefs are also being sought by the defendants. Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr Martin Kpebu, issued the writ of summons on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Source: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson/ thePublisher