Monday, 30 October 2017

ECG and gov’t stand-off threatens power sector

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Many Ghanaians are left wondering about the stiff stands-off between the government and the nation’s power distributor, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) workers.

 For the past two years, when government announced its intention to hand over the management of ECG to a  concessionaire under the previous administration of John Manama, the workers of ECG has shown strong opposition to the deal which is being supervised by the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) under the Millennium Change Compact (II).

The stand-off, according to political analysts, contributed to the downfall of the NDC government in the 2016 elections.

To many Ghanaians, the situation poses a threat to the power sector.

In spite of this, the Ranking Member on the Energy and Mines Committee of Parliament, Mr Mutawakilu Adam, has urged the government to settle the case in which some workers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have sued the state over their demand for payment of severance award out of court.

He  believes that, the entrenched position taken by the Minister of Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, on the fate of the workers was the reason the workers had taken the matter to court.

He said Ghana risked losing out on the concessionaire deal, which was expected to be consummated in September next year, if the impasse between the government and the ECG workers was not resolved.
 About 1,000 workers of the ECG have gone to court to challenge moves to hand over the operations of the company to a concessionaire without any redundancy package for them.

They are urging the Labour Division of the High Court to declare that sending ECG workers, including the plaintiffs, on permanent transfer constitutes a redundancy.

The workers are also asking 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.

But, Mr Adam believes that, the workers took the matter to court because the Minister of Energy was not ready to engage them properly.

"As of the time the minister announced the takeover and finally indicated that those who did not want to work with the concessionaire would be paid their redundancy package, he had not met with the workers union. It was unfortunate," he said.

Mr Adam, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Damongo, said the minister should rather dialogue and coordinate with the workers to get a sound resolution of the issue but not take an entrenched stance.

"The workers feel they are not being respected. I think the minister should take his time and dialogue with them, so that Mother Ghana moves forward.

"I believe he has not engaged them and the workers themselves have indicated that he has not engaged them and they are not sure of their fate," he said. 

In furtherance to his assertion, Mr Adam said, assurances to the ECG workers that their jobs would be secure were not enough and that those assurances should be documented.

He said if the workers would be given their redundancy package or absorbed in the new entity, there should be a legal agreement between them and the government from now to that effect.

He said it was wrong for the workers to be left in the dark as to their fate until the ECG had been taken over by the concessionaire in September next year.

Making reference to the takeover of the UT and the Capital banks and the assurances given to their workers that they would work, for at least six months, he said: "Less than three months later they are being sacked.

“So it tells you that assurance by word of mouth is not enough,” he said.

Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) workers are in court to challenge moves to release the operations of the company to a private individual without any payment.

The workers numbering one thousand and one (1,001) are calling on the Labour Division of the High Court to state that sending them, the plaintiff on a permanent transfer comprises severance.

They are led by a leader of the ECG workers as well as first plaintiff, Mr Benedict Kanose, Public Utilities Worker Union (PUWU), the second plaintiff of ECG while the defendants are: Attorney General and the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) .

According to the ECG workers, the decision by the Minister of Energy to conduct redundancy negotiation with them is unlawful and constitutes a gross violation of section 65 of the Labour Act.

The section of the Labour Act requires that negotiation redundancy pay must be conducted between the employer and the workers union, among other provisions, and also constitutes unlawful interference with trade union activities.

The plaintiffs are calling upon the court to hand an order to the defendants to comply with the provisions of the Labour Act, go through the proper redundancy process as documented in the country’s law and pay the plaintiff severance package in line with the laws and the collective agreement with the ECG staff and the company.

Also, the workers of the ECG are seeking an order from the court that will prevent the defendants’ assigns and privies from going on with the compact agreement between the Akufo-Addo government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on August 5, 2014 for the reform of the electricity distribution sector of Ghana by naming a private investor to take over the power distribution company.

Already, a conference has been held for the concessionaires bidding to take over the operations of the ECG in Accra last week.

The conference was held to give the shortlisted Applicants an opportunity to ask and receive responses to questions from Government of Ghana (GoG) as well as parties on the draft Request for Proposal (RfP) document.

The delegation includes Manila Electric Company from Philippines, CH Group from Ghana,/ EDF SA/LMI Holdings/Veolia SA, BXC Company Ghana Ltd and Xiaocheng Technology Stock Company Limited from China.

The rest are Shaanxi Regional Electric Power Group Company Limited from China, the Tata Power Company Limited from India and CDC Group Plc from UK.

On his part, Ing. Owura Sarfo CEO of MiDA the conference is necessary to meet crucial timelines.

“This is a very significant milestone in the process. The goal has remained the same, to procure a Concessionaire who would not only inject the required financial investments ECG needs, but also introduce modern technology and efficiency strategies that would turnaround the operational and financial fortunes of ECG,” he said.

Each Applicant will meet with the GoG team made up of officials from the Ministries of Finance, Energy, Justice and Attorney General’s Department, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), Energy Commission (EC), ECG, and MiDA.

Ing Sarfo explained that “the meetings have been planned to ensure that all clarifications and questions from each Applicant are adequately addressed and everyone is on the same footing as we proceed to the remaining stages of the procurement process”.