JS panel asks GP to stop retrenchmentsAbdullah Juberee
A parliamentary standing committee on Wednesday warned GrameenPhone that legal action would be taken against it unless it stops staff retrenchments immediately and resolves the issue of about 220 personnel who were sacked recently.
The committee on labour and empowerment ministry asked GP to resolve the issue keeping close liaison with Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, the Labour Directorate and the Ministry of Labour and Manpower.
The committee conveyed the message directly to GP chief executive officer Tore Johnsen who was summoned for a hearing on the issue, committee chairman Israfil Alam, MP, later told reporters.
He also said that Johnsen was told in clear terms that if GP failed to resolve the issue immediately, the standing committee would advise the Ministry of Labour to take legal action against it.
Responding to its summons, Johnsen appeared before the committee at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with three colleagues including GP head of human resources department.
GP has 4,800 personnel in its payroll.
The committee accused the leading mobile operator of indulging in ‘unfair’ labour practices in violation of the country’s constitution, labour laws, universal human rights declaration and the ILO Convention, Israfil said.
The committee told the GP chief that it was ‘wholesale termination of staff without allowing them the opportunity to defend themselves.’
Before leaving, Johnsen said, replying to reporters, that he was not in a position to make any comment as most of the discussions at the meeting were in Bangla.
Asked whether he had an interpreter, Johnsen said it was not easy to get instant translation of the queries.
‘I will take some briefing from my officials about the meeting. You can expect a version from us by the evening,’ Johnsen said.
Israfil said that the GP team tried to convince the committee that the company recently terminated staff under its ‘restructuring’ process.
He said that the committee was ‘not satisfied’ with the clarification.
Israfil said that only after receiving complaints from the terminated personnel, the committee summoned the GP officials to clarify their action of ‘wholesale staff termination without allowing them to defend themselves.’
‘It’s a gross violation of our constitutional, the labour laws and international charters like universal declaration of human rights and the ILO Convention,’ Israfil said.
Israfil said the GrameenPhone officials seemed less eager to defend their action and more interested to have an ‘exclusive’ meeting with the committee chairman.
‘Throughout the meeting, they insisted on sitting exclusively with the committee chairman and the members rejected the proposal,’ Israfil said.
Committee members told reporters that they received a number of phone calls from ‘extremely influential’ people who lobbied for GP.
‘We told them you always speak of good governance, and now you are seeking an exclusive meeting. It is not acceptable. Everything has to follow the process of accountability. You scream for human rights at the top of your voice but you neglect it in your company. It is not fair,’ said Israfil.
Israfil said the officials failed to provide the company’s employment policy and the rules for retirement and promotions.
‘They even could not give us a clear organogram of the company,’ he added.
Israfil said that the committee also questioned them about the disparity in the company’s salary structure which ranges from Tk 10,000 to Tk 23 lakh.
‘We have received complaints that the staff members were suddenly called and asked to face interviews only to show them the door,’ Israfil said.
The sacked personnel were given the stigma of ‘non-performing staff,’ he said.
‘A pregnant female officer who was on maternity leave was recalled and terminated. It is not acceptable,’ Israfil said.
Though the company earned a net profit of around Tk 2,000 crore, the staff members were refused five per cent of it as bonus as the labour law stipulates, he said.
‘The reality is that that this company is a big partner in our economic development efforts and in expanding telecommunication across the country. So, we do not expect such bad practice from it,’ Israfil said.
Israfil also said that after recruitment through competitive examinations, if any staff member loses his or her efficiency for not providing the training required, the company has to shoulder the responsibility.
‘It is absolutely unacceptable that companies would create instability in the country by taking recourse to such wholesale job terminations violating the rules and regulations,’ he added.
The state minister for labour and manpower Munnujan Sufian, committee members Shahiduzzaman Sarkar, MP, Abdus Sattar, MP, Nani Gopal Mandal, MP, Zakir Hossain, MP, and Rawshan Jahan Sathi, MP, attended meeting while BTRC chairman Zia Ahmed was present on special invitation.
The job cuts triggered protest demonstrations by the terminated personnel outside the GP head office at Baridhara on July 8.
They also held demonstrations at the same place on Wednesday.
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