Grameenphone management-employees’ dispute, labour rights and others

Collected by the author

 

Notification of Grameenphone Employee Association, also mailed to Tore Johnsen, CEO of Grameenphone Ltd.

 

July 04, 2012

Dear Mr. Tore Johnsen,

With due respect to state that you are aware of the GP’s Codes of Conduct (rule-2) under the heading of Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining- “Grameenphone recognizes the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining in mature labour environments. In such environments, Grameenphone allow its employees to freely elect representatives among the employees. Unless this would represent a breach of national laws and regulations. Such employee representatives shall be allowed to carry out their functions unhindered at the work place. You share the responsibility to avoid discrimination against any employee representatives.”

 

We would like to inform you that, we the employees of Grameenphone Ltd. formed an Association in the name of “Grameenphone Employee Association” (GPEA) on 14 June, 2012; an Executive Committee and several number of employees have already been joint as member with a view to

“the benefit of the company and to strengthen the relationship between the employees and the employer (company)”

under the right stated in the- Article 38 of the constitution of Bangladesh: “Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions”;

Article 23(4) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948: “Everyone has the right to form and to join a trade union for the protection of their interests”;

Convention C087 of ILO 1948: International conference on Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining, and Industrial Relations and rule 2 of GP’s Codes of Conduct as mentioned above.

Employees are also allowed to form association as per below mentioned provision of Labour Law of Bangladesh 2006:

“Section 176: Trade unions of workers and employers: Subject to the provisions of this Chapter,- 

(a) workers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to form trade union primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workers and employers or workers and workers and, subject to the constitution of the union concerned, to joint trade union of their own choosing;

(b) Employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right form trade union primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between employers and workers or employers and employers and, subject to the constitution of the union concerned, to join trade union of their own choosing; and

(c) Trade unions of workers and employers shall have the right to form and join federations and any such union and federation shall have the right to affiliate with any international organization and confederation of worker’s or employers organization.

(d) Trade unions and employers’ associations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmers;”

But unfortunately we observed that, some of the GP’s higher/upper level employees/ supervisors is orally, indirectly discouraging employees not to join the association/union and also threatening that they would take action against those employees if they are identified which is the serious violation of constitution, ILO, Human rights and labour law (Section 195) also punishable by the Section 291 of Labour Law of Bangladesh.

Section 195: Unfair labour practices on the part of employers: No employer or trade union of employers and no person acting on their behalf shall-

(a) impose any condition in a contract of employment seeking to restrain the right of a person who is a party to such contract to join a trade union or continue his membership of a trade union ; or

(b) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any person on the ground that such person is, or is not, a member or officer of a trade union; or

(c) discriminate against any person in regard to any employment, promotion, condition of employment or working condition on the ground that such person is, or is not, a member or officer of a trade union; or

(d) dismiss, discharge, remove from employment or threaten to dismiss, discharge or remove from employment a worker or injure or threaten to injure him in respect of his employment by reason that the worker is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become a member or officer of a trade union, or participates in the promotion,

(e) induce any person to refrain from becoming, or to cease to be a member or officer of a trade union, by conferring or offering to confer any advantage on, or by procuring or offering to procure any advantage for such person or any other person;

(f) compel or attempt to compel any officer of the collective bargaining agent to sing a memorandum o settlement or arrive at a settlement, by using intimidation, coercion, pressure, threat, confinement to a place, physical injury, disconnection of water, power and telephone facilities and such other methods.

(g) interfere with, or in any way influence the election provided for in section 202;

(h) recruit any new worker during the period of strike under section 211 or during the currency or a strike which is not illegal, except where the conciliator has, being satisfied that complete cessation of work is likely to cause serious damage to the machinery or installation, permitted temporary employment or a limited number of workers, in the section where the damage is likely to occur;

(i) deliberately fails to take measures recommended by the participation committee;

(j) fails to give reply to any communications made by the collective bargaining agent in respect of any industrial dispute;

(k) transfer the president, general secretary, organizing secretary or treasurer of any registered trade union in contravention of section 187;

(l) commence, continue, instigate or incite others to take part in an illegal lockout

 

Punishment:

Section 291: Penalty for unfair labour practices: (1) whoever contravenes any provision of section 195, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to ten thousand taka, or with both.

So, for the purpose of the benefit of the company and to strengthen the relationship between the employees and employer (company), all of your assistance is highly appreciated for this association and to encourage the employees to join here voluntarily. For being openness and being transparent/visibility of the association and the right to organize our administration and activities and to formulate our program [as per the section 195(d) Trade unions and employers’ associations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmers] we, the interested employees are going to arrange a lawful and peaceful gathering at L4 (Smoking Zone) inside “GP House” today dated on 04/07/2012 (Wednesday) 5:30 PM. All of the GP employees are requested to attain the meeting and collect the Membership Form and submit it to join the Grameenphone Employee Association/Union. This is the general notification to all the Employees.

 

Sincerely,

 

____________________________________

Mia Md. Shafiqur Rahman Masud

General Secretary

Grameenphone Employee Association

 

 

 

 

 

From: Mia Md. Shafiqur Rahman Wholesale Business MD
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 7:10 PM
To: Tore Johnsen
Cc: Arild Kaale ( Commercial ); Haroon Bhatti People & Organization; _templet People and Quality Management Customer Service; A. F. M. Rubayat Ul Jannat Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; A. S. M. Mosabbir Tanim Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; A.K.M. Badruddoza Deep People Management, Customer Service; A.S.M. Saimuzzaman Akash Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; Abdul Kahhar People and Quality Management Customer Service; Abdul Kuddus Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; Abdullah Al Mamun Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; Abdullah Al Saki Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; Omer Md. Faruk Distribution Distribution and Retail Sales; Abdullah Md. Fahad Inbound Contact Center Customer Service;
Subject: Demands of GP Employees

 

Dear Mr. Tore Johnsen,

 

Good Day!

As per today’s discussion with your respective management members Mr.Fridtjof Rusten & Mr. Tanveer Mohammad, we are placing the following demands on behalf of the whole GP employees based on the meeting discussion at GP House, Micro Spectrum, at 5:30pm.

 

Here are the demands as follows:

1. Immediately stop Job cut & exit process & restore all the access by today.
2. Forced exit compensation should be reviewed up to government declared retirement age.
3. CPO, HEAD OF LEGAL & related employees must be punished for their illegal activities.
4. Review present increment and propose an improved increment policy as per industry standard and market dynamics.
5. Declaration of 5% of profit bonus with all outstanding dues.
6. Need proper compensation for health hazardous jobs.

 

Our utmost request to you to come up with positive solutions for the betterment of the organization as well as the employees by tomorrow 9th July, 2012, 5:30pm.

Thanks for the commitment from Mr. Fridtjof Rusten & Mr. Tanveer Mohammad to ensure to restore all the access by tomorrow morning.

 

Best Regards

Mia Md. Shafiqur Rahman Masud

On behalf of Grameenphone Employees

 

 

 

 

 

From: Tore Johnsen
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 6:10 PM
To: GP
Cc: Raihan Shamsi Grameenphone IT Ltd.
Subject: Mail with requests from employees (Internal)

Dear GP colleagues

This is in reply to an email sent across to the management and distributed widely across the organization. Let me take this opportunity to address all of our colleagues in GP on some of the issues that have been raised.

I want to assure you that GP puts the welfare of its employees as a priority concern, whilst maintaining the highest business standards and efficiency in this competitive market. The management is always willing to look into employee issues, but the employees must also remember that in a robust competitive environment, the business must re-invent and modernize itself to remain as healthy as we want GP to be.

The right to form associations is a co-operative and collaborative right of employees in the best interest of themselves as well as the company, and GP is willing to look into and commence a consultation process with employees, management, Board of Directors and shareholders to constructively explore formation of an employee welfare association where all employees can take part, not something born out of perceived and speculative misunderstandings and distrust.  However, business continuity and safety and security of both employees and premises are of utmost importance, therefore GP will take all necessary measures to protect that. We expect all employees to ensure that the ongoing discussions will be conducted peacefully and in a constructive and professional manner, so that the operation and business interests of GP are not compromised.

To address the specific requests raised in the email:

 

  1. Immediately stop Job cut & exit process & restore all the access by today.

 

MT has restored the access to the employees with the last working day communicated as 31 July 2012.

In a fast moving industry and highly intensified competition GP needs to renew itself to ensure that we serve the expectations of our customers. This requires adjusting our competence and organization, and to this end the process of re-structuring will need to continue. However, there are no plans as of today for any further re organization, but business needs or prospects may require adjustments or investments in future, which could potentially reduce or increase the prospects of employment in the organization.

 

  1. Forced exit compensation should be reviewed up to government declared retirement age.

 

GP is offering mutual separation scheme that by far exceeds the requirements of local laws and the employment contract. This also recognizes the contribution those employees have given to GP during their employment. The expectation of the scheme reviewed up to the retirement age is not realistic at all.

 

  1. CPO, HEAD OF LEGAL & related employees must be punished for their illegal activities.

 

The company activities and strategic initiatives are driven by the CEO with the consent of the Board of Directors, and other management personnel execute those decisions on their behalf based on delegated functions. These are serious allegations put forward against certain employees, and the management will not accept unsubstantiated personal attacks based on speculations, and not on evidence. If serious matters are put forward and substantiated, the management will conduct independent and impartial investigations on the alleged issues, whether from GP side or from Group. It is also expected that the prescribed guidelines and the outcomes are followed and respected by all employees.

 

  1. Review present increment and propose an improved increment policy as per industry standard and market dynamics.

 

GP management will revisit the Increment Policy 2012 with a progressive outlook. However, the management would like to request all employees to also recall that the increment declarations by GP in the past years have been substantially higher than the official inflation rates.

  

  1. Declaration of 5% of profit bonus with all outstanding dues.

 

The company had consulted several senior lawyers of the country to provide legal opinion on this issue and based on their opinions, it has referred the matter on a Writ Petition before High Court for proper clarification, where it is currently pending. GP is always respectful to the due process of law and will abide by the judgment of the Supreme Court in this respect.

  

  1. Need proper compensation for health hazardous jobs.

 

GP’s ambition is to be at the forefront in complying with the HSSE standards and practices, and we are constantly reviewing how to improve. All HSSE issues are taken very seriously, and any issues identified as problematic will be reviewed to ensure we meet or exceed industry standards.

 

I would like to conclude by thanking all our colleagues for attending and performing their professional duties in these challenging times. All of us must remember that safety and unhindered continuity of our operations is not only important for GP business, but for the entire country as a whole. Our employees have been our core assets and the success of this company is built on our colleagues. I feel all of us will discharge our responsibilities knowing that our services and operations are critical for the entire functioning of the country. We should exercise all diligence in ensuring that our operations and services remain strong and we remain united as one team.

 

Best wishes.

Tore

Tore Johnsen

CEO

Grameenphone Ltd

phone:  + 88 0 1711508000

mail: tore@grameenphone.com

 

 


Grameenphone exists to help customers get the full benefit of communications services in their daily lives. We’re here to help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From: Mia Md. Shafiqur Rahman Wholesale Business MD
Sent: Sunday, July 15, 2012 3:23 PM
To: Tore Johnsen
Cc: Arild Kaale ( Commercial ); Haroon Bhatti People & Organization; _templet People and Quality Management Customer Service; A. F. M. Rubayat Ul Jannat Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; A. S. M. Mosabbir Tanim Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; A.K.M. Badruddoza Deep People Management, Customer Service; A.S.M. Saimuzzaman Akash Inbound Contact Center Customer Service; Abdul Kahhar People and Quality Management Customer Service;
Subject: RE: Demands of GP Employees

 

Dear Mr. Tore Johnsen,

Good day!

Thank you very much for your reply within the committed timeline. We, the employees have meticulously gone through your response. It has been discussed on a general meeting held on 10/07/12 in GP House in presence of the employees and the employees have also talked about the responses informally with each other over these days.

As per the opinion of the employees, we would like to let you know that most of your feedback/explanations on the general Demands of the employees are not acceptable.

Firstly, in your response, you have mentioned that GP is willing to take initiative to form an employee welfare association in participation of all employees consulting with the employees, management, Board of Directors and shareholders. We appreciate this initiative and we will definitely be member of that association, though the association as you suggested is as like as an amateur association which has to be formed under the banner of welfare association or co-operative society. But kindly note that that kind of amateur association doesn’t have any bargaining authority with management/owner according to the law. On the other hand, to protect the interest of general employees and to strengthen the relation between the employees and the employers, law of the country permits to form an association which can play the role of bargaining agent. This type of lawful association shall have the full capacity and authority to discuss with management about the issues of common interest. Here management can directly get the feedback from general employees regarding their work, workplace, work situation, work condition, motivation and others issues that may arise time to time. In absence of such association, general employees’ feedback never goes to the management with accurate form which ultimately creates gap between the employees and the management. If this association would have been formed earlier, present “distrust” situation would not be arisen. Now, we are on process to finish the formation of such type of association. Please note that, according to the law of the country, formation of this sort of association does not require any approval from the employer, its management, board of directors or from shareholders. And the law also states that no employee requires to take any permission from or to inform his/her supervisor to join in this Association. Therefore, we hope and firmly believe that we’ll get full co-operation from you as per law for the formation of this association.

Now we would like to inform you the feedback on the Demands submitted earlier:

  1. 1.      Regarding Job Cut:

We acknowledge that the company has right to job cut considering its business situation. We also believe that the process of job cut has to be lawful. Therefore, we strongly oppose the present manner of job cut which is absolutely unlawful. Nature wise, the job cut with present manner is a “retrenchment” in the eye of law and to go with this process, the law prescribes certain process. Instead of following the lawful manner, GP has introduced its own formulated process which is not even in written form and not part of its approved policy. Therefore, we expect the present unlawful ongoing retrenchment process will be stopped immediately.

  1. 2.      Regarding Exit Compensation:

You have mentioned in your reply that our demand for payment compensation up to retirement age is not realistic. We firmly want to say once again that this is realistic. The “Rejected seal” that had been put by you on the shoulders of exited employees badly affects him/her in the job market as well as in the society through this unlawful retrenchment process. In press conference, GP’s spokesman has admitted that this is “retrenchment” and the “disqualified” people have been retrenched. At this point, we would like to remind you that first of all, the process is unlawful, which is an offence and secondly, the statement given in media that has established the “Rejected Seal” has destroyed the future career path of the affected employees as well as diminished GP’s image. In some cases, it has been observed in the meantime that the retrenched people are refused to get job with their standard because of your “Rejected seal”.

 

This “Rejected seal” have hampered their lives in many ways which is not in any way compensable by money and this is an irreparable injury. Some approximate points are mentioned herein below (the list is not conclusive) where people are affected due to “rejected seal”:

 

S.N Head Irreparable Loss/Financially compensable
1 Reputational loss non-compensable by money
2 Career Opportunity loss Do
3 Mental harassment Do
4 Destroying family life Do
5 Social Humiliation Do

 

Please note that most of the people who are affected have exceeded their government service age and now are not getting job, few days after they will be graved by deep frustration and consequential losses. How will this be compensated? Therefore, we believe seeking of compensation up to retirement age is justified.

  1. 3.      Punishment of few employees:

Earlier we are in view that the mastermind of the ongoing retrenchment process is CPO and Head of Legal & Compliance. But in your response you have mentioned that you with consent of the board of directors and other management members drove the strategic decision. In this regard, we are on the viewpoint that you with consent of the board of directors and other management members have taken the strategic decision to cut job. We have already mentioned that we are not against the decision of lawful downsizing as the company has such right but we are on the opinion that the process you are following for the job cut is unlawful. We believe that the process has not been formulated by the board of directors and other management members, but it has been formulated by the CPO with the help/advice of the Head of Legal & Compliance and some other few people.

This company is our built company, we have reached this company to this height, and we have affection for it other than anyone else. So we will never allow going this company in a non-compliant ways. By any how we will protect it to save its reputation.

On another note, you have mentioned that if the matter is substantiated you will take step. The ongoing retrenchment process is self-proved unlawful and therefore, no further prove is required. You may seek opinion from reputed labor law experts about the process for your confirmation. So the responsible/ accused personnel must be gone through legal proceedings for his/their activities whoever he may be.

Beside the above, few days back, in a widely circulated e-mail an employee has pointed out some cases of violation of law and GP Policy against a GP high official who was supposed to guide the company in lawful manner and ensures compliance. Despite of having prima-facie case in the allegation, we didn’t see any step taken by the management against that very accused person whereas gravity wise the raised allegation demanded immediate steps. Your silence on taking steps on that issue made general employees confused regarding your views on GP policy “all employees are equal before it and the policy is equally applicable for all”.

We believe to uphold the policy, you will take step without any further delay.

  1. 4.       Regarding Increment:

Warm thanks for your assurance to review the increment policy 2012. GP used to declare policy based on PMP, company’s profit and government declared inflation rate etc. However, this year you have emphasized on previous years’ increment rate. But you know that this policy has resulted in huge discrimination among different levels of employees. The major portion of the employees is badly affected by this policy which felt negative impact on their motivation level. Moreover, while deciding increment rate, previous year’s increment is not, in any way, an acceptable criterion and it is not practiced too in any industry at home and aboard. So we believe that while review you will take the above issues in consideration. However, we expect you will communicate a deadline when this revised policy will be declared.

  1. 5.      Regarding Profit Bonus:

We, the  employees, work for GP from dawn to dusk and even beyond, we ensure the earnings for GP and for its unknown unseen owners/investors with due sincerity, honestly and dedication for years. But our hard earned money is being spent in the court and for highly paid lawyers to deprive us!

The government has directed to contribute 5% of profit to the WPPF for the welfare of the employees. In your mail you have mentioned that ‘GP puts the welfare of its employees as a priority concern…’. If that is so, then why GP is pursuing in the court against this direction? Why GP is spending money for the legal battle which is against the interest of the employees? So we call upon to withdraw the legal process initiated by GP against the 5% of profit bonus contribution and disburse among the employees/make the contribution to WPPF immediately. We believe management will take immediate step to resolve it in a positive way.

  1. 6.      Regarding compensation for hazardous jobs:

Many of our colleagues are losing their organs like ear, throat etc. due to hazardous job especially in ‘call centre’ and accident for various risky job in various departments. We believe that GP will introduce a smart policy to address this area and design an efficient process so that the affected person would get the right protection and compensation.

On another note, it is observed that still there are few officials, who are creating obstacle/threatening either directly or indirectly for not joining in the association to concerned fellows which is undesired. And heard that misconception is spreading out by them that to form an association, management consent is required and present ongoing association is not forming in right manner. Regarding this, we have already mentioned above that, no consent is required from management part to form an association and formation of an association is in progress within the purview of law. And the association has already exceeded the number of members that is required as per the law for its formation. So we hope misconception about the association will be hereby removed.

We also hope that the management could realize the present outburst is happened due to management’s failure to realize the employees’ expectation for years. That is why, this sort of association is required, so that the management remains updated about employee concerns. Therefore, employee association in a form of bargaining agent is a practice established worldwide and endorsed by concerned law of land with an ultimate objective to create a healthy and congenial atmosphere of work and to run the company in a more profitable way.

Finally, we believe and humbly request that you will review your statement once again keeping in mind the above explanation and let us know your feedback by 17 July, 2012. However, we are always open for discussion.

 

Best Regards

Mia Md. Shafiqur Rahman Masud

On behalf of Grameenphone Employees

 

 

 

 

Tore Johnsen’r reply to Employee Association-18.07.12