Moves by 1,001 workers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to halt the planned concession of ECG to a private entity generated heated arguments at the Labour Division of the Accra High Court on Thursday.
Lawyers for the workers were supposed to move an application praying the court to halt the concession arrangement until the determination of a suit by the workers challenging the process.
That was vehemently rejected by lawyers for the defendants — the ECG, the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) and the government — who argued that the application for interlocutory injunction ought to be moved immediately.
Per the law, the concession arrangement cannot continue until the court rules on the application for interlocutory injunction.
It was a showdown of legal arguments as a Deputy Attorney-General (A-G), Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, and counsel for the ECG workers, Mr Martin Kpebu, took turns to make their submissions.
Mr Kpebu said he received the 47-paragraph affidavit opposing the interlocutory injunction from the A-G last Tuesday and, therefore, there was the need for him to file a supplementary affidavit to address some of the issues raised by the A-G.
He, accordingly, asked the court to give him time to consult with his clients and also file the supplementary affidavit.
“With a 47-paragraph affidavit from the A-G, it will be very dangerous for me to presume that I have answered all the points raised by the A-G,” he said.
Mr Dame, however, argued that Mr Kpebu had failed to demonstrate that the affidavit filed by the A-G contained any new facts which he (Kpebu) had not already dealt with in the application for interlocutory injunction.
“I do not see any grounds for adjournment or a supplementary affidavit. There is a lot at stake. The interlocutory injunction is holding back an agreement between the government of Ghana and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed in 2014,’’ he said.
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Laurenda Owusu, initially rejected Mr Kpebu’s prayer but later granted it after persistent arguments from counsel.
The case was adjourned to October 24, 2017 to allow the workers’ legal team to file the supplementary affidavit.
Lawyers for the workers were ordered by the court to move the application for interlocutory injunction on the said date.
On August 5, 2014, the government entered into an agreement with the United States of America (USA), acting through the MCC, to transform the power sector in Ghana.
It is known as the Ghana Power Compact or simply Compact II and the MCC is expected to invest up to $498.2 million to transform Ghana’s power sector and stimulate private investments.
The implementation agency of the compact on behalf of the government is the MiDA.
As part of the deal, the operations of the ECG have to be handed over to a private entity for a period of 20 years to ensure the transformation of the country’s sole power distributor.
But that move angered the 1,001 workers of the ECG and, on October 3, 2017, they dragged the government, MiDA and the ECG to court with the case that there was no redundancy package arrangement for them.
Joined to the suit as second plaintiff is the Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU).
They are asking, among others, for a declaration that the decision by the Minister of Energy to conduct redundancy negotiations with individual employees of the ECG, including the plaintiffs, is illegal and constitutes a gross violation of Section 65 of the Labour Act.
The plaintiffs are praying for an order for the defendants to comply with the provisions of the Labour Act by going through the proper redundancy process as laid down in the country’s laws and pay the plaintiffs’ redundancy pay (severance package) in accordance with the stipulation in the law and the collective agreement between the workers and the ECG.
They are also seeking a perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants, their assigns and privies from continuing with the compact agreement between the government of Ghana and the MCC signed on August 5, 2014.