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General News Mon, 19 Nov 2001

Government wants arbitration with oil workers

Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Energy, on Friday said government would continue with the arbitration process on the severance awards to workers of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to ensure that the nation was protected.

Speaking to newsmen in Accra, Mr Kan-Dapaah said he was surprised that workers of the GNPC embarked upon a demonstration at the Ministry of Energy on Friday morning. He said their union had not properly briefed them about the restructuring exercise.

"We really want to go ahead with the restructuring of GNPC and want early settlement of the issue. It is the Union which has made it impossible for the restructuring process to go on."

He said GNPC was a bankrupt company that had to pay severance awards that ran into millions of cedis.

The Energy Minister said government was committed to restructuring GNPC to stick to its core business.

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Various steps had been taken and the workers had pledged their support to the government's decision that the restructuring was necessary.

He said discussions on severance awards for those to be laid off were going on and at their last meeting about four days ago, there was a deadlock and the Union wanted arbitration.

A letter was therefore written to the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment with a copy to the Ministry of Energy.

He said the workers demanded that a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the management and the Union in July this year should prevail but the government could not allow that CBA to be used because there was no Board of Directors in existence or representative of the Ministry of Energy involved when it was signed.

Mr Kan-Dapaah said under the CBA, severance awards for junior workers should be based on six months salary, while those for senior staff should be based on eight months salary for every year they had worked.

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"The laws of the land demand that severance awards should be negotiated. We question the validity of the new CBA signed in July without due regard to the Board of Directors of the Ministry of Energy," he added.

The Minister said GNPC was in a very serious financial condition with many liabilities which government should discharge. It was therefore not appropriate for the workers to demand such monies with the debts facing the company.

He said as part of the restructuring exercise, government agreed to pay the salaries of the workers for July, August and September this year and consider September as the cut-off period but the workers demanded it should be negotiated.

This was going on until the deadlock and they demanded arbitration.

Mr Kan-Dapaah said the restructuring being undertaken by GIMPA stipulated that the current workforce of 600 should be reduced to 150.

Source: Accra Mail