THE National Labour Commission (NLC) has filed an appeal against a Fast Track High Court ruling delivered last month against its orders that Ghana Telecommunications (GT) Company unfairly terminated the employment of an employee by not assigning reasons.
Sources at the Supreme Court Registry disclosed that the notice of appeal had been filed but they would not divulge the grounds of appeal.
The ruling, meanwhile, has generated anxiety in labour circles as labour experts spoken to say that it puts employees at a disadvantage because of the unequal nature of the world of employment.
Major labour unions have been locked up in crucial discussions on the ruling since its publication, while others are arranging press conferences to engage the public on the matter.
The Executive Director of Gamey and Gamey Academy of Mediation, Mr Austin Gamey, however, said the ruling had been generalised and distorted in many respects.
“The case is a specific, classic case and employers must not presume that the ruling gives them the right to act anyhow, while labour must not think the ruling is about an unfair labour practice,” he stated.
He pointed out that the ruling was right because the trial judge, in the ruling, clearly made the distinction that the case was not one of an unfair labour practice but a contractual agreement which was in operation and had been terminated by one party.
He made reference to Section 19 of the Labour Act which states that a collective agreement with express provisions on the terms and conditions for the termination of a contract of employment that was beneficial to a worker would not enjoy the relief provided in Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 that were on grounds of notice and payment of remuneration on termination of a contract.
Mr Gamey, however, said the High Court did not have any regulatory or supervisory jurisdiction over the NLC, as alluded to in the ruling.
He pointed out that when an issue that bordered on unfair labour practice was brought to the NLC and a party was not satisfied, it could resort to the Appeal Court. However, the NLC only applied to the High Court to enforce its orders.
He advised all individuals who were not part of unions to seek advice from labour experts before entering into contracts of employment.
The General Secretary of the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL), Mr Abraham Koomson, when contacted, said employees sometimes limited themselves with the type of employment contract they entered into.
He added, however, that some issues in the ruling could have a negative impact on labour.
For instance, Mr Koomson said, the NLC should have brought to the attention of all parties during the trial Legislative Instrument (LI) 1833 that regulated the operation of the Labour Act 2003.
He pointed out that Part 35 (3) of the LI required that a contract could be terminated by an agreement between an employer and an employee only when the Labour Office was satisfied that both parties had consented to the agreement in the first place, among other things.
He said the LI helped in the proper interpretation of the act and had to be resorted to for a better understanding of the law.
Mr Koomson said the issues raised in the ruling were indicative of the fact that the institutional capacity of the NLC had to be boosted for the law to be widely known and understood.
A Fast Track High Court ruling on January 18, 2008 established that Section 15 and 63 (4) of the Labour Act 2003, which previously was taken to mean that employers needed to give reasons before a contract was terminated, no longer applied, since a contract of employment was not like that of servitude.
Section 15 of the act, among other things, states that “A contract of employment may be terminated by mutual agreement between the employer and the worker.”
Section 63 (4), also states that “A termination may be unfair if the employer fails to prove that the reason for the termination is fair or the termination was made in accordance with a fair procedure of this act.”
DAILY GRAPHIC, FRIDAY FEBRUARY 15, 2008