Accra, Nov. 24, GNA- An Accra High Court would on December 16, rule on the impasse between government and the 12 labour unions over a strike, which led to the shutdown of public institutions.
Government had filed a writ before Court seeking a declaration that the indefinite strike embarked upon by public sector workers was illegal and that the workers should return to work.
The court in an ex-parte application restrained executives and officers from embarking or continuing with the industrial action or indefinite strike by October 21.
The said order took effect for eight days.
Last week when the case was called before the court presided over by Mr Justice Saeed Kweku Gyan, Justice of Court of Appeal, the 12 labour union disclosed that they needed time to respond to the writ hence prayed for an adjournment.
At Monday’s sitting, Dr Dominic A. Ayine, Deputy Attorney General argument in respect of an affidavit in opposition stated that the Labour union (defendant respondents) had no right to embark on a strike.
In the context of Ghana’s Bill of Rights, the Labour unions were to consider issues pertaining to public interest, safety and the respect for the third party.
For example Dr Ayine said school children reported for school only to see their teachers absent. This he said affected their right.
According to him he did not support the inference in the context of Ghana’s Bill of Right that that the Unions have the right to go on strike.
“ Even if we were to accept defendant’s argument that the right to strike flows through the freedom of association, there would be no substantial impairment if the current application was granted.”
He pointed out that if the strike is resumed by the unions, governmental services would be affected hence invited the court to engage in “fine balancing of rights”.
Dr Ayine said the court should not also take a look at the rights of the defendants but the right of government as an employer to the services contracted for and for which it pays monthly services for and its effects of the services rendered to the public.
Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, Counsel for the defendants said it was inaccurate for government to say that the constitution in its letter did not accord workers the right to go on strike.
Mr Dame contended that the Constitution in its letter and spirit guarantees the rights to embark on strike.
According to him the Constitutions also guaranteed the worker the right to form or join a trade union and ensure the protection of economic and social rights.
According to him, Dr Ayines’s authorities quoted were inapplicable to the case before the court.
To buttress his argument, Mr Dame observed that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention number 87 gave the green light to freedom of association and since Ghana had ratified it is binding on the country.
“The GH₵ 187 million quoted by government as the loss it suffered during the strike was put on pressure on government to resolve a pressing grievance,” Mr Dame said.
The court after listening parties’ arguments ordered them to submit any other authorities in support of their case to the Court’s Registrar.
It further ordered the Court‘s Registrar to effect changes on names of the unions spelt out on the writ.
An 18-point statement of claim said, among other issues: “The plaintiff’s claim is for an order that the defendants call off their illegal strike and resume work, as mandated by their respective contracts of employment.”
“The plaintiff’s claim is for an order that the defendants jointly and severally pay to the government, as employer, any financial or economic loss suffered by the government during the pendency of the strike,” it said
Public sector workers across the country last month declared a strike in protest against the government’s decision to manage their second-tier pension funds, saying the decision was in contravention of the Pension Law.
However, the Attorney-General, in the statement of claim, stated: “On a true and proper construction of sections 129 and 211 of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), the government is the employer of all public sector workers and is consequently entitled to appoint a trustee or trustees in relation to the second-tier pension scheme.”
It is further praying the court that “In the alternative, a declaration that upon a true and proper construction of sections 129 and 211 of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), neither an employee nor a representative of such employee is by law entitled to sponsor an employer-sponsored scheme or a master trust scheme in relation to the second-tier pension”.
The statement of claim said the plaintiff felt the grievance based upon which the aggrieved labour groups resorted to the indefinite strike was grossly misconceived and without any basis, “as the appointment of a trustee to manage the second-tier pension of public sector workers is exclusively the preserve of their employer, that is, the government of Ghana”.
“Plaintiff avers that the appointment of the Pension Alliance Trust to administer and manage the second-tier pension of public sector workers was done after a process of rigorous screening by the Minister of Finance of five shortlisted companies in accordance with criteria established by the NPRA (National Pension Regulatory),” it added.
It said as the employer of all public sector workers, the government had not impeded and did not intend to impede in any way whatsoever the full implementation of the second-tier pension scheme for government employees.
“Plaintiff avers that the government, as the employer of all public sector workers, represented by the defendants, has a vested interest in the contributions it pays monthly towards the retirement of its employees and cannot abdicate that responsibility to defendants,” it said.
Consequently, membership of more than 800,000 workers called off the strike following the court order.
The unions include Health Service Worker Union, Ghana Registered Nurses Association, Ghana Medical Association, Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association, Ghana Physician Assistant Associations, Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anesthetists, Ghana National Association Teachers, Teachers and Education Workers Union, National Association of Graduate Teachers and Judicial Service Staff Association.