By Diana M. Kodie
The University of Ghana (UG) has again lost its own appeal against its former employees, who are seeking payment of their ex-gratia under the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).
The three-member Court of Appeal panel, presided over by Justices Kusi Appiah, yesterday by a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal filed by the UG, challenging the judgment by the Accra High Court, Labour Division, over payment of ex-gratia to former employees.
According to the applicant, the evidence adduced before the High Court was not sufficient to warrant the said judgment. However, the three-member panel said the appeal lacked merit and was accordingly dismissed. In their judgment, the three Justices unanimously dismissed the case, asking the UG to pay the former employees the ex-gratia due them (using the SSSS to calculate) as their salary arrears were paid.
In addition, they would be paid interest from September 2011 to the final day of payment. The panel, which consisted of Justice Kusi Appiah, Justice Lovelace Johnson and Henry Kwofie said the grounds of appeal by the UG that ex-gratia is paid from their own internally generated funds (IGF), hence, it could not pay the former employees using the SSSS, was untenable. The court, therefore, dismissed the appeal and affirmed the judgment by the High Court and awarded cost of GHC25, 000 against the UG. The High Court gave its judgment in 2016, asking the UG to pay the ex-gratia to all former employees.
The court, again, ruled that seven members of the plaintiff, who the premier school wanted to sideline because they had not worked with them for 10 years, hence, are not entitled to ex-gratia, was also over-ruled. University of Ghana, subsequently proceeded to the Court of Appeal to overturn the judgment which was unsuccessful. Speaking to The Chronicle, the leader of the respondents, Bernard Acquah Mpraim expressed his excitement that finally, after so many years, justice had been served. According to him, it was not easy travelling to and from court for the years the case travelled.
The 2010-2011 retirees of Ghana’s premier university, who were 205 in number, including former Vice Chancellor and Professors, proceeded to the Industrial and Labour Division of the Accra High Court to demand payment of arrears of their ex-gratia, after the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) was implemented from their former employer. Bernard Acquah Impraim, former chairman of the UG’s Tertiary Education Workers’ Union (TEWU), who led the about 200 retirees, said they retired when the university was working on the implementation of the SSSS, which was subsequently executed in September 2011. Mr Impraim lamented that, all other public universities had paid their employees the differences on the ex-gratia, based on the SSSS, in addition to all arrears due them. He added that, even within the UG, staff of the School of Business, who retired in 2010 and 2011, have been paid the differences on their ex-gratia and basic salaries with SSSS. According to Mr Impraim, the SSSS was implemented in September 2011 and they received arrears on their basic salaries, because of the implementation of the SSSS, which means ex-gratia, was to be affected by the changes in the salary structure. However, the institution refused to pay and all attempts by the about 200 retirees to seek redress proved futile. He explained that, they (the retirees) petitioned the university in a letter dated September 11, 2012, entitled: ‘An appeal for Supplementary payment of Ex-gratia’, after the arrears on their basic salaries had been paid on the SSSS.
The UG wrote back to the retirees to acknowledge receipt of their petition. Mr Impraim continued that, on December 2, 2012, they received another letter from the university, informing them that their petition had been sent to the senior management, so they were hopeful to hear a good outcome. However, on January 30, 2014, the group received a letter from their former employer that the institution was sorry the request by the 2010-2011 retirees could not be granted. He said the letter explained that, the arrears on the basic salaries were paid by the government of Ghana, but the difference on the ex-gratia would have to be paid through the UG’s internally generated fund (IGF), which was not possible because they could not absorb it. The former UG TEWU chairman said upon receipt of the final response from their employer, he, together with the support of his colleagues, who are all over 60 years, proceeded to court to seek redress, which outcome has gone in their favour.