An Accra High Court has set October 31 for the ruling on an application for interlocutory injunction by 1,001 workers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), challenging moves to hand over the operations of the Company to a concessionaire without any redundancy package for them.Mr Martin Kpebu, Counsel for the ECG Workers, in their application, are seeking the court to restrain the defendants of a concession to take over the operations of ECG, and also to restrain the government of Ghana from engaging individual employees of the first defendants, ECG, with a view of bargaining their redundancy package with them individually.
Arguing their case in court on Tuesday morning, he said, they were relying on all the applications and supplementary affidavit, adding that, the defendants were in the process of selecting a concessionaire to take over the distribution of power, and up to date the employment of the over 6,000 employees of the ECG has been guaranteed for only 5 years when the concessionaire takes over.
He said the defendants had not been able to demonstrate that they had changed this position, saying the concession would only bring about involuntary layoff, and that way, they would be admonishing the third defendants, MiDA.
Mr Kpebu argued that, if the concession was granted, the plaintiffs would no longer be employees of ECG, and would also bring about a redundancy, because there would be a major change in programme.
He reiterated that the defendants had still not been able to demonstrate that the concessionaire has been given a directive to give same treatments to the employees, adding that, if such is granted, the legal rights of his clients would be threatened.
The first defendant, ECG, represented by Mr Cephas Galli, opposed the application, saying his outfit continues to rely on the affidavit in opposition filed on October 13, together with the exhibits and statements of case.
He said an order of this nature was not just for the action, but the plaintiffs would have to show the court that they deserve it, or there is a serious case between them and the defendants.
He said the plaintiffs themselves, in their affidavit, did admit that the compact they are trying to stop would be of much importance to the energy sector. They said they were not against the compact because it was for the public good.
Mr Galli argued that it was only the first defendant who could declare redundancy under the Labour Act, and until it does that no worker can be talking about redundancy package or has an accrued right for redundancy package.
“ECG has not declared any such thing, so the fear of the applicants is unfounded. We intend to respect every portion of the collective bargaining agreement of the Labour Act.”
He prayed the court that if the application was granted it would follow that all the other ongoing activities on the compact had to be stopped, resulting in losses and much inconvenience.
Deputy Attorney General, Mr Godfred Dame, also opposed the application supporting the point of ECG that the plaintiffs had admitted that the compact they were trying to stop would be of much importance to the energy sector.
They said they were not against the compact because it was for the public good. He said although the plaintiffs had the right, it was totally unwarranted for them to come before a court applying for a relief that has nothing to do with issues before the court.
He said the purpose of the compact was to ensure the sustenance of power by ECG if granted by the state, saying, the pre-condition for a case of redundancy has not been fulfilled at all.
Council for the third defendant, MiDA, Mrs Victoria Barth, associated herself to the first and second defendants, reiterating that before a court would grant such an application, it must be established that there is a particular issue to be trailed, or if left would incur damages.
She said until the first defendants declared redundancy, no cause of action applies from the employees, adding that, the mere fact that the company goes through reconstruction does not give rise to a redundancy package.
The court presided over by Ms Lorinda Owusu later adjourned the case to October 31, for her ruling on the application.
At the previous sitting, the court adjourned the matter for counsel for the plaintiffs to go through the AG’s affidavit in opposition and file their supplementary affidavit in support of their application for an interlocutory injunction.
The workers are in court asking the Labour Division of the High Court to declare that sending ECG workers, including the plaintiffs, on permanent transfer constitutes a redundancy.
The workers are also asking for a declaration that the decision by the Minister of Energy to conduct redundancy negotiations with individual employees of ECG, including the plaintiffs, is illegal and constitutes a gross violation of Section 65 of the Labour Act.
The plaintiffs are praying for an order directed at the defendants to comply with the provisions of the Labour Act, go through the proper redundancy process as laid down in Ghana’s laws and pay the plaintiffs redundancy pay (severance package) in accordance with the stipulation in the law and the collective agreement between the workers and the ECG.
They are also seeking a perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants, their assigns and privies from continuing with the Compact Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on August 5, 2014, for the reform of the electricity distribution sector of Ghana by, among other issues, appointing a concessionaire to take over the distribution of electricity from the ECG and related agreements.
Further declaration that the failure of the ECG and the Attorney-General to declare a redundancy in the ECG, pursuant to their plans to hand over the business of the ECG to a concessionaire, constitutes a breach of the contract of employment between the plaintiffs and the ECG is also being sought.
Damages for breach of contract, costs, including solicitor’s fees, and other reliefs are also being sought by the defendants.