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Divided voices at ICOUR: Workers clash over MD’s extended tenure amid retirement controversy

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The Managing Director for the Irrigation Company of the Upper Regions (ICOUR) has come under fire for what has been described as his unwelcome extended stay as head of the organization when his retirement is due.

It would be recalled that the ICOUR Chapter of the Ghana Agriculture Workers Union, in a recent press statement, stated their displeasure that Dr. Bonaventure Aligebam had refused to hand over when he had been ordered to do so by the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Bryan Acheampong.

“The workers of ICOUR Limited, represented by the General Agricultural Workers’ Union of T.U.C, Ghana (G.A.W.U of T.U.C) totally agree with and support the Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Bryan Acheampong (MP) on the above subject matter involving the Managing Director (MD) of ICOUR’s request for a two-year post-retirement contract. Dr. Aligebam (the MD) retired on December 7, 2023, but is still at post, despite the sector minister’s directive for him to hand over.”

In the statement, the workers insisted that “the Conditions of Service (CoS) document for all ICOUR workers has made no provisions for a post-retirement contract for any category of staff, which Dr. Aligebam is subject to, per his Letter of Employment. It is the main reason that no past manager has ever been granted a post-retirement contract. They each respectfully proceeded on their compulsory retirement when their times were due.”

Workers of ICOUR, in that statement, stated that they had suffered oppression under the leadership of Dr. Aligebam, adding that “He has constructively dismissed three workers, including the Internal Auditor. The warning issued by the Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) of breach of the law did not stop him from doing his wish. He threatens workers with dismissal all the time, verbally abuses and suspends workers from work without due process, one time made a worker put off naked fire using his bare feet, etc. Currently, even as he is supposed to be on retirement, he is still bullying workers at will, and no one can talk to him to stop. A couple of prominent people have been contacted to talk to him to work in peace with the workers, all to no avail, among others.

They said the continuous presence of Dr. Aligebam means the company would not progress as workers intend it to. The workers thus appealed to the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, to intervene in the matter. These details were contained in a letter signed by the Chairman of the ICOUR Chapter of GAWU, Adam Jibril, and the Secretary, Augustine Zoogah.

But in a rather shocking twist, other workers within the organization have mounted a spirited defense of Dr. Aligebam. The workers, Evans Kwayire, D. Senabisi, Peter Chanase, and Daniel Akansake, who are also members of the union in a letter copied to A1 Radio, say they disagree with the contents of the initial letter purported to have been written on behalf of all workers.

The trio does not, however, contest the statements made by the earlier group regarding the retirement of Dr. Aligem.

“With regards to ICOUR and Dr. Aligebam’s case concerning his post-retirement contract, we as concerned staff of ICOUR and also Gawu members are not sure all what is circulating out there is the true reflection on the ground. The MD, no doubt, is really on retirement and waiting for instructions from the Board of Directors of ICOUR.”

They continued to argue that the allegations made against Dr. Aligebam were unfounded.

“In the year 2019, when the MD was appointed to ICOUR, these same group of staff (GAWU) had already started mobilizing to kick against his appointment. In April 2021, this group again, led by Augustine Zoogah and Adams Jibril, rioted against Dr. Aligebam the MD, claiming that; he had come to sack experienced staff and smuggling other people inside to work in ICOUR. They also claimed he was victimizing staff and threatening them with a gun. The issues with the gun threat are highly false and should be disregarded. No staff had so far been suspended nor sacked during Aligebam’s regime as MD to date.”

The trio suggests that the workers protesting the continuous leadership of Dr. Aligebam are doing so for personal reasons.

“In 2023, Management made some transfers of some staff to enhance productivity (Augustine Zoogah from Vea to Tono; and Adams from Tono to Vea). Again, these people resisted and mobilized other staff to go to the Regional Minister and the Board Chair to protest against their transfers. The board of directors of ICOUR had to convene a meeting, which cost the company a lot of money to resolve the issue of transfers until they finally complied.”

“The chairman of the so-called GAWU Union has been and still is perpetually late to work. He comes to work from 10 – 11 am instead of 8 am. His secretary chooses to be absent from work on some days without excuses. These same leaders have also resorted to not recording the time in the attendance book, and whenever administrative actions are taken, then it is termed as intimidations or victimization. We want to create the awareness that the so-called GAWU, who claimed to be representing all ICOUR staff, are doing their own things without the knowledge of the majority of the staff. Only about 10 out of 37 staff are causing problems for the whole of ICOUR. It’s over 8 months now we have not had a GAWU meeting. Meanwhile, we are all GAWU members and pay monthly dues.”

They made arguments to support their stance that Dr. Aligebam’s contributions to the development and progress of ICOUR have been invaluable.

Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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