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General News of Thursday, 26 October 2006

Source: Graphic

Legal Action Against NAGRAT Strike

Counsel for the National Labour Commission (NLC) yesterday informed the Fast Track High Court in Accra that the strike by the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) was illegal.

Mr J. Opoku Agyei informed the court that members of NAGRAT never sought permission from the NLC before embarking on the strike, as was required of them.

He further submitted that the Labour Act permitted an aggrieved party to go on strike for a maximum of seven days but said members of NAGRAT had, since September 1, 2006, embarked on the strike and for that matter they had exceeded the stipulated period under the Labour Act.

Mr Agyei was arguing the commission’s case at the court’s sitting in Accra yesterday in the case in which the NLC is praying the court to order members of NAGRAT to call off their strike which they illegally embarked upon on September 1, 2006.

However, NAGRAT has said the suit filed by the NLC is misconceived and a deliberate attempt to compel its members to call off their strike, which is aimed at articulating their grievances.

Continuing with his submission, counsel stated that the Labour Act required aggrieved parties, after the seven-day period, to go for compulsory arbitration, the outcome of which was binding on all parties.

Mr Agyei said although people were entitled to embark on strike, members of NAGRAT had not complied with any of the laid down procedures in the Labour Act.

For instance, Mr Agyei said, under the Labour Act, aggrieved parties were expected to give notice to their employer and the NLC before embarking on a strike.

He pointed out that the NLC’s position was that aggrieved parties were expected to resolve their dispute at the commission, but once that failed, an aggrieved party ought to give notice before embarking on any action, saying NAGRAT failed to do that in that instance.

According to him, the NLC ordered the respondents to go back to the classroom to teach but they failed to comply with the order and had been on strike to date.

He said it was as a result of NAGRAT’s non compliance with the NLC’s order that the NLC instituted the legal action.

Touching on the affidavit in opposition filed by NAGRAT, Mr Agyei said the averments by the respondents seemed to be dragging parties in the matter for a judicial review.

He stated that the application by the NLC was not calling for a judicial review but praying the court to order the respondents to comply with the NLC’s order, adding that, in any case, NAGRAT did not go to court to challenge the NLC asking it to go back to the classroom to teach.

The Presiding Judge, Mr Justice Richard Asamoah, then asked Mr Agyei what if the said order from the NLC to the members of NAGRAT was a nullity.

Replying, Mr Agyei informed the court that members of NAGRAT had the right to file a certiorari for the court to quash the said order if the order was found to be a nullity.

Earlier, the court had adjourned proceedings in the case for an hour to enable counsel for NAGRAT, Mr Archie Martin Danso Jnr, to confer with his clients on the next line of action to be taken on a supplementary affidavit which had been filed by the NLC.

The NLC had filed a supplementary affidavit which talked about a letter from the Ghana Education Service (GES) which confirmed that members of NAGRAT had been on strike since September 15, 2006, the date on which schools reopened.

Mr Agyei was in the process of arguing it when the judge asked him whether it had been sworn in the original affidavit, to which counsel explained that it had been averred in a supplementary affidavit which had been filed.

Counsel for NAGRAT said he had not received a copy and insisted he needed to confer with his clients on the pleadings in the supplementary affidavit.

When the court reconvened after an hour, Mr Agyei moved to inform the court that records showed that there was proof of service on the respondents but the judge urged him to go on and tackle relevant matters in the case. Hearing continues today.