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General News of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Source: GNA

Organised Labour not happy with High Court ruling

Accra, Feb. 19, GNA - Mr Kofi Asamoah, Acting Secretary General of the Ghana Trade Union Congress (TUC) said on Tuesday the ruling of the High Court in the case involving the National Labour Commission (NLC) and the Ghana Telecom did not reflect the true intentions of the relevant provisions of the New Labour Law or the legislative history of the Law.

He said the Labour Act 2003 was a negotiated enactment of enlightened compromise, which was enacted after extensive negotiations and consultations between the social partners namely government, employers and organized labour to promote industrial peace and harmony through the balancing of the legitimate interest of the social partners.

That, he said, accounted for the detailed provisions and the duties and rights of both employers and employees, the provision on fair termination and unfair termination and the revolutionary remedy of reinstatement in the case of unfair termination.

The High Court, Fast Track Division in Accra in its ruling on January 18, this year, held that under the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) there was no duty on the employer to provide any reason for the termination of employment of an employee, adding, that a contract of employment, not being a contract of servitude, could be terminated at any time with or without reason, provided appropriate notice of termination was served in accordance with the contract of employment. Mr. Asamoah, who was commenting on the ruling at a press briefing said the issue of termination with or without reasons was one of the thorny issues that engaged the full attention, discussion and negotiation of the social partners.

"At the end of the consultations, it was concluded and agreed by the social partners that there was the need to shift from the old common law position that an employer was under no obligation to give reasons for terminating the employment of a worker to a new and modern approach. "This outcome resulted in the provisions on grounds of termination, fair and unfair termination in sections 15, 62 and 63 of the Labour Act and was aimed at ensuring security of employment," he said.

He said even though the government had not directly ratified that convention, it was the view of the Labour front that the provision of the Labour Act sought to incorporate its beneficial outcome in Ghana Municipal Law.

"----- and indeed the High Court, which is specifically designated under the Constitution of Ghana as the Human Rights Court ought to lead the way by giving effect to the intendment of the framers of the Labour Act 2003 on this crucial human right question," he said. Mr Asamoah said the efforts made by the parties to move away from the archaic common law which were intended to address the glaring injustices and abuses that workers suffered as a result of the operation of the old position and its unrealistic principle of mutuality, which in reality left workers completely vulnerable to the whims and caprices of the employer.

"We note with regret that the decision of the High Court, Fast Track Division, Accra is not informed by these relevant and important considerations. Rather, it gives no meaning to the new approach agreed by the social partners as envisaged in the new law.

"The decision reverts the country to the old discredited common law position, which the Labour Act signalled a departure from. As a result, the historic gain achieved in the Labour Act is threatened with being rendered nugatory in one stroke by this ruling of the High Court," he added.

He said the new approach was also intended to bring Labour Law in that respect in line with best international practice and ILO norms and called on the government to ratify without further delay ILO Convention 158 for the avoidance of further doubt on the issue. After the briefing, a group made up members of the Organized Labour later embarked on peaceful demonstration wearing placards some of which read, "Illiterate judgment. Dismissal without reason, Honourable wigs can't take workers for granted, We no sit down for judges to manipulate the Labour Act, unemployment everywhere, we are not in the jungle, Labour Commission - bite, Don't bark", to press home their disagreement with the ruling.

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