Merchant Bank Thrown Out Over Dismissed Staff

The Court of Appeal in Accra has dismissed an appeal filed by Merchant Bank Ghana Limited against its union leader, Reverend Jonas Koranteng, who claims he was unjustifiably dismissed by the bank. Merchant Bank, which has been controversially sold to Fortis Equity Fund and rebranded as Universal Merchant Bank, had initiated the appeal process trying to stop the National Labour Commission (NLC) from ordering the bank to reinstate Rev. Koranteng. The Verdict The three-member panel presided over by Justice Victor D. Ofoe, with Justices Mariama Owusu and Gertrude Torkornoo supporting, said the NLC, whom Rev. Koranteng had petitioned for a redress following his dismissal, had done nothing wrong in ordering for a reinstatement. “We have conducted a rehearing of this appeal by reviewing the evidence as it applies to the applicable laws and we are convinced that the respondent commission did not err when it ordered Rev. Koranteng to be reinstated. “Even though its decisions may be described as sketchy, a detailed examination of the case put before it supports its decision to order the reinstatement. We consequently dismiss the appeal as without merit,” the court told Merchant Bank. Merchant Bank’s Action Merchant Bank initiated the appeal after one of its powerful union leaders, Rev. Koranteng, had petitioned the NLC and succeeded in getting the commission to order his reinstatement by the bank. This followed the bank’s decision to dismiss him for what it termed as “circulating false information on the intranet with intent to cause disaffection for the board members and other workers of the bank.” Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the intranet is considered part of the bank’s notice board and any breach by a staff comes with its consequences. The bank had viewed the conduct of Rev. Koranteng as reprehensible and therefore queried him on April 20 and May 7, 2012 to explain his actions which he also responded on April 23 and May 7, 2012. The management of the bank, not satisfied with Rev. Koranteng’s answers to the query, summoned him before a disciplinary committee on May 20, 2012 but on June 1, 2012, the union threatened to go on strike if the disciplinary action against their boss was not discontinued. The stance of the union was that since Rev. Koranteng’s purported action as complained by the bank, was done in his capacity as workers’ representative and union chairman and therefore it was the responsibility of the bank to summon Rev. Koranteng to the Standing Joint Negotiating Committee (SJNC) and not a disciplinary committee. However, Merchant Bank had a contrary view. It insisted that since Rev. Koranteng first and foremost is a staff and should be taken through the disciplinary committee in terms of the CBA and the NLC per a petition from the union, it invited the parties for an amicable settlement on June 6, 2012. That notwithstanding, the bank proceeded with the disciplinary action against Rev. Koranteng and terminated his appointment on June 5, 2012 – a day before the parties were to appear before the NLC. On June 20, 2012, the parties testified on their respective cases and were asked to also make written submissions after which the NLC came up with its findings where it ordered the bank to reinstate Rev. Koranteng. Grounds of Appeal Not satisfied, the bank appealed against the decision of the NLC in court insisting among other things that “the whole of the decision is against the weight of evidence.” The bank also insisted that “the respondent commission erred when it failed to comply with Regulation 6, 7and 33 of L.I. 1822,” adding, “the respondent commission erred when it failed to appreciate and thereby misdirected itself of the fact that the complainant misconducted himself when it failed to appear before the committee of enquiry set up to investigate his misconduct.”