MODEC has no right to declare strike illegal – Labour expert

A lawyer, specialized in labour issues, is cautioning MODEC, the company managing Ghana’s oil production vessel, against declaring a sit-down action by its workers as illegal.

Mr. Danso Acheampong told Joy FM’s Top Story Tuesday it does not lie within the company’s right to decide whether a strike is legal or not.

MODEC is responsible for engineering, procurement, construction and installation as well as operation and maintenance of floating production systems including Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels and Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) vessels.

MODEC yesterday dismissed 27 workers who participated in a sit down strike on the offshore vessel FPSO Kwame Nkrumah last month. The workers were demanding better conditions of service in the face of huge pay disparity between them and expatriate workers offering the same services.

The letter to the workers also said the company will take action to recover losses it has incurred due to what it described as illegal strike called by the local union.

But Danso Acheampong, who is also a former Chairman of the National Labour Commission, said only an adjudicating body can say what the workers did was illegal or otherwise.

“Definitely no employer can reserve in itself, the power, to declare an action that has happened as illegal or otherwise. You need to go to a forum – NLC or court.”

The General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers Union of TUC says it is preparing to escalate the current labour unrest in the oil and gas front if the 27 workers are not reinstated.

But the labour expert fears the consequence for the national economy.

“This matter has to be handled very well…our economy is so fragile that we don’t need this big oil strike on our hand.”

Mr. Acheampong has also charged national leadership of the petroleum union to provide leadership and guide local unions in such action.

Meanwhile, the local union, in solidarity with their dismissed colleagues, say they will go to court to challenge the decision by MODEC if they refuse to reinstate the workers.

Patrick Ahiadzi, MODEC Division Chair, General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers Union, denied that workers embarked on strike.

It was a “safety sit down to indicate to management that they were not happy,” he told Joy News.

He said since 2010 that MODEC started operations, there has not been salary structure for upgrading the local workers.

He accused MODEC of acting in bad faith after going back on their words even though it has signed an MOU with the workers on the salary structure in July.

 For instance, a local senior technician takes home GHC6,000 while the expatriate senior technician is paid USD8,000 (about GHC26,000), Mr. Ahiadzi said. Story by Ghana || Isaac Essel | | twitter @isaacessel

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