By Edmund Mingle
Thursday, 03 July 2008
THE dismissed chairman of the Senior Staff Association of the Bank of Ghana, Benjamin Duffuor, was arrested by the police yesterday morning while addressing workers at the bank’s head office in Accra.
His arrest sparked an indefinite strike action by the workers who said they would not resume work until their leader was released and reinstated.
The strike, which affected numerous clients of the bank, was spreading to the regional branches of the central bank as at the time of going to press.
Some executives of the association told the Times that personnel from the Accra Regional Police Headquarters bundled Mr Duffuor into a police vehicle, while he was addressing the workers in front of the bank.
Regional Police Commander, Kwaku Ayensu Opare-Addo, confirmed Mr Duffuor’s arrest by his outfit on an Accra FM radio station later, but the bank’s management has denied giving the order for his arrest.
Esi Hammond, Public Relations Manager of the bank, told the Times that she was not aware of any directive from management for Mr. Duffuor’s arrest.
As at mid-day yesterday, most of the workers were outside chatting, while a large police contingent was on standby in front of the bank.
Some of the workers’ leaders, who spoke to the Times but declined to disclose their identities for fear of victimisation, described the action by management as "intimidatory."
The appointments of Mr. Duffuor and the association’s secretary, Mr Frank Mensah, were terminated last Friday, sparking a strike on Monday by the staff who demanded their reinstatement.
Although management has not assigned reasons for the dismissals, the striking workers said they believe it has to do with their involvement in attempts to turn the staff association into a labour union, which the bank considers illegal.
On Monday, amidst heavy police presence, the workers, demonstrated at the bank’s premises. They wore red protest arm bands, chanted war songs and displayed placards some of which read: "We want a union", "Reinstate our leaders now" and "Governor, don’t act like Mugabe".
The arrest and dismissals constitute the latest developments in the impasse over the unionisation of workers of the bank.
The bank has instituted legal action against the Attorney-General (A-G) and the National Labour Commission (NLC) on the purported registration and recognition of the bank’s Senior Staff Association as a labour union, challenging the A-G’s purported registration and the NLC’s recognition of the association as such, citing Article 24 (3), (4) of the 1992 Constitution and also Section 79 of the Labour Act 2003.
Article 24(3) of the Constitution guarantees for the employees right to join a trade union for the promotion and protection of their economic and social interests, while Clause 4 bars any restrictions on the exercise of the right, "except those prescribed by law, in the interest of national security and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
Section 63 (2a) of the Labour Act 651 states that "a worker’s employment is terminated unfairly if the only reason for the termination is that the worker has joined, intends to join or has ceased to be a member of a trade union or intends to take part in the activities of a trade union".
Section 79 of the Labour Act 2003 guarantees freedom of association, but also sets out some classes of workers and functions such as those in management or sensitive positions, who must first reach an agreement with their employers before joining trade unions.