An attempt by SGS/GCNet to use the High Court to set aside the National Labour Commission (NLC) Arbitration Award challenging the capacity of the Staff Welfare Association to represent Staff in the impasse involving payment of severance packages for redundant staff has been flatly shot down by the Court.
The Judge found no merit and therefore dismissed the case brought against the leadership of the Welfare Association representing the redundant staff.
Citing the basis for a no case His Lordship, Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson on February 1, 2021 at the Accra High Court ruled that SGS / GCNet by its conduct and statement in relation to dealings with the leadership of the Staff Welfare Association and the Association itself are estropped from denying that the Staff Welfare Association lacks capacity
SGS/ GCNet’s case was that when it raised the issue of the capacity of the leadership of the Welfare Association, the objection was ignored and the Arbitration Panel proceeded to enter the Award, hence its decision to petition the Court for redress.
In the 10-page ruling, the Court reminded SGS/ GCNet that the issue was addressed in the Arbitration Report by the Arbitration Panel at NLC and referred to Page 7, a part which reads ‘suffice to say however that if a worker can negotiate with the employer or a representative of the employer, we do not see why a representative of the witness (worker) cannot negotiate with the representative of the employer’.
The Court further noted that in the submission of supporting documents of its application, SGS/ GCNet never denies the existence of the Staff Welfare Association as the official representative of the Staff of the company and therefore SGS / GCNet is caught by Section 26 of the Evidence Act, NCRD 323 of 1975.
The Court alluded to Exhibits of SGS / GCNet in support of its affidavit application that it recognizes the Association as representing the Staff of GCNet, something that has been in operation for well over 15 years and together with the Staff Welfare Association presented the request for Arbitration.
Indeed, SGS/GCNet further confirmed that Management applied the existing HR Manual with respect to 2 staff in December 2019 in a redundancy matter in its supporting exhibits and therefore its case of objection to the leadership and Association lacking capacity was flawed.
Based on law in relation to the submissions of the applicant and respondent and decisions in similar cases which Justice Rockson cited, in the circumstances so considered, he ruled that Court finds NO MERIT in the application and DISMISSES same.
Meanwhile, the National Labour Commission (NLC) has proceeded to the Courts to secure an Order of Enforcement judgement against GCNet to compel them to pay redundant workers their severance package following its refusal to comply with the Arbitration Award and the High Court ruling on the matter.
On June 30, 2020, Executive Management refused to respect the terms of disengagement which culminated in a series of discussions between Welfare Association representing staff and Executive Management representing SGS/ GCNet.
Following a deadlock in discussions, the matter was jointly referred to the National Labour Commission (NLC) on August 11, 2020 by parties involved which ended in Arbitration for resolution. An Arbitration Panel was jointly selected by the parties and the NLC. The parties selected one arbitrator each from the list of arbitrators and the NLC selected a Chairman to constitute the three-member panel.
On September 4, 2020, the NLC appointed Arbitration Panel ruled in favour of affected staff upholding HRPM Article 1901(f) of the GCNet HR Policy Manual to be respected without any variation or adjustment and also ordered that the effective date of redundancy was August 31, 2020 which should be regarded as the last day of employment for each employee, with clear instruction to pay August salaries to affected staff.
Days after the September 4, 2020 Arbitration Award, GCNet Executive Management / SGS acting in bad faith refused to respect the Award of the Arbitration Panel and approached the National Labour Commission (NLC) to review the Arbitration Award.
The NLC in a letter dated September 25, 2020 dismissed the request for review citing Section 158 (1) of the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) which provides that ‘the decision of the Arbitrator or majority of the Arbitrators shall constitute the Award and shall be binding on all parties.’