Tension brews in Prestea over dismissal of workers

General News of Friday, 6 February 2015

Source: Today Newspaper

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Tension is brewing in Prestea over the dismissal of about seventy workers by Golden Star Bogoso Prestea Limited (GSBPL,) a multi-national mining company, operating in the Prestea-Huni Valley District of the Western region.

According to a deep throat source, the dismissal of the workers who were employed as direct contractors at the New Century Mines of the GSBPL was as a result of the recent fall in the price of gold on the world market and high operational cost of doing business.

The move, sources close to the company hinted, was to make the company stay in business.

The workers who were affected, Today gathered, had not been paid their retrenchment packages.

That situation, according to information available to the paper, has heightened tension between the affected workers and the management of the company.

Explaining the incident to Today in an interview, some of the affected workers who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity said they were asked by the Human Resources Manager of GSBPL, Mr. John Atefah, to go home on December 19, 2014 until further notice.

“I want to tell all workers who are working as direct contractors of the Care and Maintenance Department at the New Century Mines of GSBPL to do underground mine activities to be preparing to go home from December 19, 2024…and we shall call you around February 2015, if the gold price on the world market increases,” was what the affected workers told Today that Mr. Atefah said to them.

That remark, the workers said, did not come to them as a surprise, as the Group Manager in-charge of New Century Mines at GSBPL, Mr. Sam Agyeman, together with Mr. Atefah held a meeting with them (workers) sometime in November 2014 to inform them about the company’s intention to dismiss workers who were doing underground mining activities.

At that meeting, the dismissed workers recounted that Messers Atefah and Agyeman separately told them that the company had to re-position itself well so as to continue to remain in business due to the challenges it went through in 2013 and 2014.

“There is the need to cut cost and reduce the number of workers hence the decision to retrench some workers,” Messers Atefah and Agyeman were reported to have told the helpless workers.

According to the workers, though they knew such a thing would happen, they did not understand why the company failed to pay their retrenchment packages after working for two years.

“We are shocked that the management of Golden Star Bogoso Prestea Limited which claims in its vision and value statement to be committed in working assiduously to enhance sustainable development in its operational areas, improve livelihoods of the people in its host communities as well as operate in the confines of the laws and regulations which govern the mining industry should sack its workers without giving them letters to that effect,” the affected workers told Today.

Meanwhile investigations by Today showed that the affected workers were employed on January 9, 2013 as part of a grand scheme to start “commercial production” of the Prestea Underground Mine project which had been lying dormant since 2002.

This face-saving exercise, Today established, was initiated by the company after President John Dramani Mahama through the then Minister of Mines and Natural Resources, Mr. Mike Hammah, gave hints of government’s intention to take back the Prestea Underground Mine from GSBPL and hand it over to another strategic mining company.

Today’s findings further revealed that the ventilation system of the machine (underground mine fan) that the affected workers were using to execute the “Care and Maintenance” work to pave way for commercial production on the underground mine of the company had become redundant, which hitherto, compelled the company to engage the workers in surface mining activities instead of underground mining.

When Today contacted the Group Manager in-charge of Corporate Affairs of Golden Star Resources Limited, Mr. Gerard Hillary Osei Boakye, and the Community Relations and Social Responsibility Manager of the company, Mr. Robert Gyamfi, for their reaction, the two requested that our reporter send them his enquiries via email which our reporter did.

Responding by via mail, Mr Osei Bokaye explained that his outfit was “not averse to full disclosure of relevant information pertaining to its operations particularly in respect of community relations.”

According to him, Golden Star Resources is a responsible company which vigorously works within the laws of Ghana and the expectations of its various stakeholders.

“I also note that you have raised some issues we have already dealt with. Some others are in the process of resolution and the outcome will be announced in due course and your outfit will be informed and invited to be present,” he added.

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