Court dismisses Labour Commission case against POTAG
An application by the National Labour Commission (NLC) to compel members of the Polytechnic Teachers of Ghana (POTAG) to resume work was on Friday dismissed by the Industrial and Labour Court, a Fast Track Court Division.
The court observed that the NLC did not follow the necessary procedure before asking POTAG to go before a Compulsory Arbitration.
It described the action of the NLC as “arbitrary and premature” since the Commission did not exhaust the processes under the Labour Act.
According to the court, it did not find anything in the Labour Act that had to do with “a compulsory and voluntary arbitration.”
“The court is therefore in a fix as to whether the Labour Act had anything to do with a compulsory and at the same time voluntary arbitration. The decision of the NLC should be specific,” the presiding judge, Mr Justice Kwabena Asuman-Adu said.
It, therefore, ordered the NLC to appoint a mediator within seven days to resolve the impasse between the Commission and POTAG saying it had seen the readiness of POTAG to negotiate with the Commission.
The trial judge further appealed to POTAG to go back to the classroom in the interest of the students and nation, while the Commission complied with the orders of the court.
“All parties in the case should also see to it that the current impasse was resolved amicably,” the court said.
No cost was awarded by the court.
Mr C.S. Sackey, counsel for NLC indicated the Commission’s readiness to comply with the court’s ruling.
Mr Sampson Obeng, counsel for POTAG said: “We are grateful to the court for its ruling.”
The NLC on November 4 this year dragged POTAG to court to compel their members to resume work following a crippling strike for nearly one month that has stopped all academic work.
POTAG contends that their conditions of service expired since 2006 hence the need to enter into negotiations.
On November 4, this year, Mr Sackey, had prayed the court to compel POTAG to comply with the Commission’s directives and resume work
Mr Sackey noted that under Section 172 of the Labour Act and the High
Court Civil Procedure Rules, the Commission was enjoined to compel POTAG to resume work immediately.
According to him, the strike embarked by POTAG did not satisfy Section
159 of the Labour Act.
Mr Sackey noted that on July 30 this year, the leadership of POTAG, through its National President, wrote to the Commission calling for the commencement of the negotiations following the expiration of their condition of Service since 2006.
Mr Sackey said POTAG on August 13 wrote back to inform the Commission that they would embark on industrial action so the NLC invited POTAG for a meeting.
He said on August 25, POTAG through its General Secretary expressed frustration at what the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission was dragging them through.
The NLC, Mr Sackey said, therefore asked POTAG to respond to the road map of the Single Spine Salary Structure after which they would consider “unresolved issues”.
As a result, Mr Sackey said, the NLC advised POTAG to go into “compulsory arbitration which would afford all parties to settle all outstanding issues”.
According to Mr Sackey, POTAG rejected the offer and in a protest letter asked why they should go for the compulsory arbitration.
He pointed out that the issues to be looked at included service conditions and other unresolved issues since 2006.
Mr Sackey, therefore, prayed the court to compel POTAG to submit itself to compulsory arbitration noting that the NLC’s decision was not a “stereotype” as indicated by POTAG.
Mr Sampson Obeng, counsel for POTAG, opposed the application saying
what the NLC was asking them to do was “to clap their hands with one arm”.
According to Mr Obeng, POTAG’s Conditions of Service had expired since 2006 and they had therefore written various correspondences to the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC). However, the FWSC had denied them the opportunity to negotiate because it would distort the SSSS programme.
Mr Obeng said they were ready to enter into negotiations.
“NLC has not shown us the road map for the negotiation over the expiration of Conditions of Service, but has provided us with the road map to the migration of the SSSS.”
He further drew the court’s attention to the recalcitrance displayed by the FWSC, saying that should be looked at instead of compelling POTAG to go back to work.
Mr Obeng therefore prayed the court to turn down the application and ask NLC and FWSC to go back to the negotiation table.