Ghana: Ex Workers of GCCL Petition Mahama

FORMER MANAGEMENT staff of the defunct Ghana Cotton Company Limited (GCCL) have appealed to President John Dramani Mahama to, as a matter of urgency, save the education of their children and the lives of family members, as well as dependents, by making money available for the payment of their redundancy entitlement.

The GCCL was dissolved in February 2011 to pave way for the overhaul of the cotton industry by engaging foreign investors.

As a result, all staff of GCCL were laid-off and the operational areas and facilities of the company given to three foreign companies which include OLAM GH, WIENCO and ARMAJARO as concessions.

Members of staff were given agreed end of service benefits to pave way for the exercise without any industrial upheavals, but Management members got sixty percent (60%) of what was due them with the promise to settle the difference later.

Since then the workers had petitioned the office of the President directly and through the interim Board of directors of GCCL in various correspondences to get their remaining 40% (GH¢ 686,000) paid to them, but to no avail. In all those occasions they had sought to impress on the President and the Board how distressed they were.

In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, a disturbed former staff of the company, Mr. Samuel Agyegelone said during President Mahama's campaign tour of the Upper East Region in 2012, a delegation of the affected staff met with him in Bolgatanga and he promised to consider the matter, once the elections were over. But to date nothing has been heard from him.

The Chronicle has sighted some of the letters written to the President and the Interim Board Chairman by the frustrated former staff. One of the letters dated 29th May, 2012 was written and signed by 14 out of the 19 affected former staff and addressed to the Interim Chairman of the Ghana Cotton Company, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, now Minister of Information and Media Relations.

It was captioned - "Petition for the payment of outstanding severance AWARD former management staff of Ghana Cotton Company Ltd".

The second letter was 27th August, 2012, and signed by one Kingsley Offei Nkansah, General Secretary of General Agricultural Workers Union. It was headlined -"Re: Payment of outstanding severance award to management staff", and addressed to the Interim Board Chairman of GCCL and copied to Executive Secretary, the Chief Director, the National Labour Commission and among others.

On January 22, 2013, the Interim Board Chairman, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, wrote to the President under the caption - "Re: Payment of redundancy entitlement of former staff of Ghana Cotton Company Limited".

In that letter, Mr. Ayariga reminded President Mahama about the steps that were undertaken in 2010 to re-organise the cotton industry which included the retrenchment of the staff of GCCL.

In the fourth paragraph of his letter to the President, Mr. Ayariga stated; "The management of the company has been under immense pressure of late to settle an outstanding amount of six hundred eighty-six thousand Ghana Cedis (GH¢ 686,000) to some staff declared redundant since February 2011".

He further stated in the fifth paragraph that "On the other hand, Wienco Ghana Limited has made demands for the repayment of the four million Ghana cedis (GH¢ 4 m) loan they extended to GCCL in 2011 and accrued interest of one million one hundred and twenty-five thousand Ghana Cedis (GH¢ 1,125,000)... "

"The purpose of this letter, your Excellency, is to once again solicit your assistance to source a total amount of five million, eight hundred and eleven thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢5, 811,000) to pay the ex-staff and Wienco Ghana Limited."

In spite of all these petitions by the former staff of the defunct company backed by recommendation letters from the Interim Chairman, Government has still not released a penny to pay the remaining 40% of what belonged to the workers.

According to Mr. Agyegelone and his colleagues, they were now frustrated as all avenues available to them to appeal to the President to get them their money had been exhausted without result. "In fact, we are not playing politics here. All that we need is our money".

At the time of filing this report, calls put through Mr. Ayariga's cell phone by this reporter to find out if there were plans to settle the retrenched workers or not were not answered.

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