Sunday, October 19, 2008


A labour consultant, Mr Austin Gamey, has opposed calls from some employers, labour unions and social partners for some amendments to be made to the Labour Act 2003.
Mr Gamey said the law did not need any amendment but that what was required for its effective implementation was the institution of a culture of best practices which could be achieved if the courts and all industrial relations partners showed commitment to the law.
He said the experience of countries with labour laws made it clear that it was not practical to easily introduce amendments to labour laws, as that could water down the intent and purpose of the laws.
“Rather, if judges will painstakingly go through the law, as well as research and help fashion out best practices for the industry, these will, in turn, become the culture and then there will be no need to amend the law,” he told the Daily Graphic.
He said the current industrial relations environment needed judges and lawyers to go through “painstaking research” and not “the 17th century ideas” used in legal decisions.
Apart from the vital role of the judiciary in giving full expression to the Labour Law, Mr Gamey was of the view that employers and unions, through their commitment to relate in a non-adversarial manner, could take advantage of other provisions in the law to get over the provisions that posed challenges.
For instance, on Section 17 of the Labour Act which is on the notice of termination of employment, he said employers and unions could rely on Section 19 and introduce in their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations provisions to ensure conformity with Section 62 that set out fair termination of employment.
Section 17 of the act provides that “a contract of employment may be terminated at any time by either party giving to the other party, in the case of a contract of three years or more, one month’s notice or one month’s pay in lieu of notice; in the case of a contract of less than three years two weeks’ notice or two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice; or in the case of contract from week to week seven days’ notice,” while Section 19 states that “the provisions of sections 15, 16, 17, and 18 are not applicable where, in a collective agreement, there are express provisions with respect to the terms and conditions for termination of the contract of employment which are more beneficial to the worker”.
Section 62 states that “A termination of a worker’s employment is fair if the contract of employment is terminated by the employer on any of the following grounds: That the worker is incompetent or lacks the qualification in relation to the work for which the worker is employed; the proven misconduct of the worker; redundancy and the imposition of legal restrictions on the worker prohibiting the worker from performing the work for which he or she is employed.”
“If voluntarily employers and unions will take advantage of Section 19, then Section 17 will not apply,” he pointed out.
Other provisions of the law that, to him, posed challenges were sections 15 and 16 that were on the grounds for the termination of employment and the types of employment contracts, respectively.
For Mr Gamey, those provisions, particularly Section 17, were leaned on by employers when they initiated the termination of employment and judges reinforced it when those cases came before them because the section derived from the common law, saying that was the reason for the agitation by labour unions for amendments.
However, all that those provisions needed were some insertions to make the intent of the law clearer, which could be in the form of the judiciary giving clarity on best practices that could become the organisational culture in decisions on industrial relations, he added.
The Daily Graphic, in its Monday, September 15, 2008 issue, reported that organised labour and the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) had called for amendments to some sections of the labour law, particularly sections on the termination of employment and the unionisation of workers.


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