The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has ordered the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) to pay compensation and re-instate some 37 ex-staff of defunct UT Bank and Capital Bank for wrongful termination of contracts.
The Commission directed that the complainants should be compensated within three months of the receipt of its decision with three months’ net salary for each complainant at the current salary for each grade that the Complainants were on before the termination for the traumatic experience of losing their job.
Ms. Eleanor Tettey and 36 other Complainants who are ex-staff of GCB Bank Ltd (UT Bank and Capital Bank) lodged a complaint against the Bank on May 29, 2019, after they were laid off.
The complaints allege discrimination, unfair and wrongful termination of appointments by GCB Bank Ltd (Respondent).
The Reliefs sought by the Complainants include, among others; a declaration to the effect that the probation, issuance of new appointment letters, reduction of their salaries, and the termination of their appointments were wrongful and in breach of their collective bargaining agreement; an order directing the Respondent to pay compensation to all the affected ex-staff.
In a 21-page decision on the matter signed by the Commissioner Joseph Whittal signed on June 20, the Commission also directs that “those who entered tertiary institutions as mature students should be considered for reinstatement because they did not require credit passes in English and Mathematics after passing the entrance examination to those tertiary institutions.”
According to the Complainants, some of whom were ex-staff of UT Bank, and Capital Bank, on August 14, 2017, GCB Bank took over the operations of UT and Capital Bank in a “Purchase and Assumption Agreement” (PAA) approved by the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
The Complainants aver that, per the takeover, GCB Bank assumed responsibility for the Staff of UT and Capital Bank, the Branches of the two Banks as well as their customers.
They contended that, by letters dated August 31, 2017, the Receivers for UT and Capital Bank sought to terminate their employment with UT and Capital Bank when they were already employees of GCB Bank.
They said that some of the workers of UT and Capital Banks were not absorbed into GCB Bank and were issued letters terminating their appointment without reason.
They added that some others who were absorbed served illegal probation and subsequently had their appointments terminated.
They noted that, from February 13 2019, GCB Bank issued letters to them indicating that they were going to terminate their appointment “at will”.
According to them, one of the reasons for the action of the Bank was that they did not possess the requisite pre-university qualification whereas those who were employed in the year 2017 with similar challenges were given a year to re-write their pre-university exams.
This action they believe constitutes discrimination since they were not given any hearing before the termination which is a breach of the principles of natural justice. They indicated that several attempts to get the Bank to give them a hearing proved futile.
They brought a complaint before the Chief Labour Officer who invited the parties to the meeting but the Respondent failed to honour the invitation.
They added that among those whose appointments were terminated were national service personnel who were posted by the National Service Scheme to do their national service.
In view of the foregoing, the Complainants sought the following reliefs among others:
“A declaration to the effect that the probation, issuance of new appointment letters, slashing of their salaries, and the termination of their appointment was wrongful and in breach of their collective bargaining agreement
“An order directing the Respondent to pay compensation to all the affected ex-staff.”
In its response to the allegations, the Respondent (GCB) stated that; the Bank of Ghana revoked the operating license of UT Bank and Capital Bank (all in Receivership).
It argued that, on August 14, 2017, GCB Bank signed a PAA with the Joint Receivers with approval from BoG.
The Respondent intimated that under the terms of the PAA, GCB Bank selected some branches, purchased some assets, and assumed selected liabilities of the two banks under receivership.
They stated that; “GCB Bank at no point in time assumed control and takeover of the operations of UT and Capital Banks.
The Respondent stated that the two Banks in receivership were later liquidated and the Joint Receivers wrote to the staff of the two liquidated Banks explaining to them their current status and their appointments were terminated by the Joint Receivers and a severance package given to them after negotiations by the respective Unions of the employees of the two Banks.
The Respondent proceeded to offer employment to some selected staff of the two banks in receivership.
The appointment letter contained terms and conditions of employment that were accepted by the staff. The Respondent added that the offer of appointment was subject to satisfying reference checks, academic certificate verification, criminal record check as well as medical fitness.
They maintained that the Complainants were engaged as new staff and either party could terminate the appointment by giving the requisite notice or payment in lieu of notice.
GCB Bank stated that in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment they terminated the appointments of some of the staff after their checks revealed that they did not possess credits in either English Language or Mathematics after completion of their secondary education or both in contravention of the “Bank’s long-standing policy in recruitment”.
The Respondent averred that whilst the termination of appointment was ongoing, some staff of the Bank issued a writ to stay the exercise and out of deference to the courts in order not to be cited for contempt, have halted the termination exercise.
The Respondent is of the view that that action should not be interpreted as discrimination since some staff who had issues with English and Mathematics had their appointments terminated, whereas others with the same issues are still in the employment of the Bank.
Furthermore, the Bank noted that the Complainants were recruited as new employees, hence were placed on the requisite grades and mapped to the Bank’s salary structure which they accepted, thus it was not the case that their salary was slashed.
In addition, the Bank denied that it forcibly assigned the employees to the Workers Union and was deducting dues for the Union from their salary thereby violating their right to association.
Pursuant to Section 18 (1) of the CHRAJ Act, 1993 (Act 456) which requires the Commission after investigation to report its decision and the reasons for it to the appropriate person, Minister, department, or authority concerned and shall make any recommendations that it thinks fit and in view of the above findings, the Commission’s decision is as follows:
“That the Complainants should be compensated within three months of the receipt of this decision with three months’ net salary for each complainant at the current salary for each grade that the Complainants were on before the termination for the traumatic experience of losing their job when they had a legitimate expectation of being in the employment of the Respondent after successfully passing all checks and being issued an appointment letter and a confirmation letter after they had worked for the requisite period of probation.
“Those who entered tertiary institutions as mature students should be considered for reinstatement because they did not require credit passes in English and Mathematics after passing the entrance examination to those tertiary institutions.
“That those who re-wrote their Mathematics and English papers and passed and submitted same to
those tertiary institutions.
“That those who re-wrote their Mathematics and English papers and passed and submitted same to GCB, the Respondent herein should be considered for re-appointment.
As stated in the introduction to this decision, this decision is applicable to Sandra Dede Kumi and 38 Others pending before the Commission but whose investigation was stayed in consultation with the parties in the present case. The Commission accordingly so directs.