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General News of Thursday, 6 August 2009

Source: GNA

Govt calls for Restraint in Vodafone Redundancy Dispute

Accra, Aug. 6, GNA - The Ministry of Communications on Thursday appealed to all sides in the raging dispute over a compulsory retrenchment exercise embarked upon by the Management of Vodafone to exercise restraint, saying this was needed to ensure an atmosphere of peace in the company for the continued provision of "diligent services in a competitive telecom market place".

A statement signed by Mr Gideon Quarcoo, Deputy Minister of Communications, requested the Management to immediately commence a new process of dialogue with the Union.

"The Union has to be assured that the process of negotiation on a labour rationalisation exercise will be undertaken in the spirit of fairness, openness and frankness, devoid of all forms of coercion and intimidation."

The Deputy Minister also urged the Union to pledge its support to objectively discuss the issue of restructuring with Management, based on the principles of performance management and the tenets of the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA). Mr Quarcoo noted that the Management was engaging in a process of one-on-one dialogue with employees to separate them from their employment.

"On its face, this appears to be a mechanism to circumvent the Communications Workers Union (CWU) of the TUC as the collective voice of the workers," he noted, and urged the Management to engage the CWU in dealing with the relevant issues concerning the proposed restructuring. The decision of Vodafone Ghana to lay off 950 workers compulsorily between now and November has kicked up a storm, with the Union accusing the Management of not abiding by the law.

Mr Isaac Abraham, Vodafone Ghana's Chief Manager of Corporate Communications, said last Friday that Management expected up to 950 employees to leave under compulsory redundancy by the end of November. He said a new organisational structure would come into place by December this year, under which operations would be automated to reduce duplication and to focus on core business areas. Since Vodafone took over the operations of Ghana Telecom late last year, at least 864 unionized and 78 non-unionized employees have gone on voluntary redundancy with transitional support packages hailed as very attractive.

If the third round of redundancy is completed, Vodafone would have laid off 1,892 of the over 4,000 workers they inherited from GT.

Mr Quarcoo recalled various meetings with the Management and Union which agreed on several points including Management ensuring that issues bordering on employee restructuring were conducted in a "consultative manner" such that the Union would at all times be well informed to facilitate and support Management in educating workers on labour issues. He said it was agreed that the voluntary redundancy exercise commenced in the first quarter of the year ought to be undertaken within the same spirit of Management-Union dialogue and cooperation. Mr Quarcoo said in undertaking the voluntary exercise, all staff wishing to take advantage of the offer should be given equal opportunity without any discrimination, adding that Vodafone was to give the same attention to applications for voluntary redundancy received from employees of Vodafone at the Ghana Telecom University College. He said it was agreed that at all times, due consideration and respect should be given to the labour laws of the country by Management in handling labour issues.

Mr Quarcoo said it was also agreed that the process of disengagement should be guided by the content of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement concluded between the Management and labour. He said given these agreements, "it cannot be said that sufficient consultations have been done to warrant the implementation of the compulsory redundancy exercise at this point in time as initiated by Vodafone".

Mr Quarcoo said given this conclusion, he was proposing that all officers should be given fair chance, based on performance contract/appraisal to prove their capability to discharge duties assigned to them.

"In the process, officers who need to be retrained to handle new responsibilities have to benefit from such training programmes." He said where a current employee of Vodafone was capable of performing an assigned task, "under no circumstance should that person be forced to proceed on compulsory separation only for the same position to be filled by an expatriate employee". Mr Quarcoo urged all parties to cooperate to initiate dialogue based on the principle of mutual trust. 6 Aug. 09

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