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xxxxxxxxxxx of Saturday, 27 January 2018

Source: Hallmark Communications

Expresso workers hold durbar ahead of Celltel relaunch

Staff of Expresso Telecom are gearing up for relaunch of the company as Celltel after almost 20 years of shareholder battle in and out of court – which is largely to be blamed for the company’s non-operational status.

In this light, they held a durbar on Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018 to among other objectives find a lasting solution to their unpaid salaries and social security benefits in the last four (4) years. The event which focused on the current state of the company and the way forward drew several workers from across the various regions of the country.

This is coming on the heels of the takeover of the company by the original owners, Kludjeson International Limited in August 2017.

Planning and Execution

The durbar was organized by leaders of the concerned workers as part of activities towards revamping the company’s operations which have been on a consistent decline in recent years.

According to the conveners, all major stakeholders including management and shareholders were invited to speak at the event. Many were however absent.

These included the Board Chairman, Kwesi Pratt Junior; Director, Col (Rtd) Larry Gbevlo Lartey, Former MD & Attorney In Fact, Robert Noris Palitz; General Manager, Fred Quainoo; Company Secretary, Ebenezer Frimpong; Human Resource & Internal Control Manager, Dorothy Akuttey, Corporate Affairs Manager, Dulcie Ofori Akuffo and Consultant to the company, Viraj Bhat.

The Founder of the company, Dr. Prince Kofi Kludjeson was the only invited speaker who made it to the event.

Drama at the head office

The durbar, originally planned to be held at the company’s head office at Abelempke in Accra was moved to the premises of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, CENCOR at North Dzorwulu.

This, the organizers attributed to the deployment of some 10 armed police personnel at the company’s premises that morning. It remains unclear, the reasons for the heavy police presence as well as on whose instructions they were acting.

Some of the workers however allege the police personnel were there at the instance of the current management – in a bid to prevent the original owners of the company from physically taking over the company’s assets.

The armed policemen are said to have been instructed to prohibit the original owners and the leader of the concerned workers, Joseph Kojo Nkansah from entering the premises - aided by photographs of the persons in question provided by the management.

According to the conveners, even though the move by management is unprofessional and against the labour laws, their determination to hold the event at all cost compelled them to change the venue from the company’s head office to the Centre for Conflict Resolution, CENCOR at North Dzorwulu also in Accra.

Successful Durbar

Notwithstanding what could be described as an initial setback, the event came off successfully as the workers took turns to share their views on the way forward to payment of their outstanding salaries and pension contributions.

The founder, Dr. Prince Kofi Kludjeson in his speech also reaffirmed their commitment to pay the monies owed the workers and put the company back on a strong footing.

“We have already budgeted for all such expenses in addition to other operational costs incurred by way of service contracts with other partners in the last few years. Our challenge has been access to the pay roll from the HR Department as all attempts with official letters have proved futile. We are however advancing moves with accounting firm, Ernst and Young in this regard” he noted.

The workers subsequently resolved among others to support the original owners of the company in this bid.

“We the workers have resolved to work with Dr. Kofi Kludjeson, the only stakeholder who honored our invitation to speak at our durbar in a bid to bring the company back in operation and thereby get our outstanding salaries paid” the leader of the concerned workers, Joseph Kojo Nkansah stated.

He added “We are only focused on our mission to get the company regain its enviable position in especially the provision of data services for our salary arrears to be paid. No level of intimidation with police or military can even stop us”

Going Forward

The original owners say they are on course to get the company restart full operations under its original name Celltel by the second quarter of 2018.

According to them, about $300 million is being invested to turn around the company’s fortunes – after securing partnership deals with reputable multinational technology firms including CISCO, Hughes, Google, Facebook and Foxcom among others.

The operators are to roll out a new business model which entails the sale WiFi-enabled devices such as: Microsoft PC tablets (Windows 10) with Microsoft Office 365 License, Assorted Laptops and Assorted Smartphones.

Subscribers will pay for selected items through a flexible payment plan which will see smaller amounts of their monthly salary deducted at source over a period of between 12 and 36 months- comparable to the regime in developed countries such as the US. This is expected to cause a revolution in Ghana’s telecoms industry which is increasingly witnessing a shift from the voice to data paradigm.