The Turkish company, Kardeniz operates the Aysegul Sultan power barge. The barge arrived in the country last year as part of government’s efforts to end the crippling power crisis amidst pump and pageantry. A second barge is expected to arrive in the country soon.
Since the beginning of April, the company has written to 10 Ghanaian engineers who have been working with it since the arrival of the barge in November last year, terminating their contracts.
“We regret to inform you of management’s decision to terminate the fixed term contract of employment between yourself and Karpowership Ghana Company Limited with effect from 7th April,” a letter to some of the staff signed by CEO, Orhan Remzi Kardeniz reads.
In February, a new country manager from Turkey Erkut Ates took over from American Robert Kremer who brought the barge to Ghana.
In what the new management calls restructuring, it has ordered subcontractors on the ship to sack some workers. Eye-Con, an engineering firm which undertakes maintenance works on the ship has sacked 8 out of its 20 workers. Another firm, Blagodolph, undertakes cleaning services on the ship. It had a staff strength of about 80. About 45 of them have been sacked so far.
There are about 30 Ghanaian engineers working on the ship, and more are expected to go by the end of the month beyond the dismissed 10.
“On the 4th, our HR met us and told us by the end of April, almost half of the Ghanaians would be out of the company because the new management is saying that there are too many people on the barge…so we knew that he was just trying to get rid of the Ghanaians on board,” a dismissed engineer said.
The company says they dismissed engineers are not working up to expectation and is replacing them with new hands from Turkey. But the dismissed staff dispute the claim that they are underperforming.
“I know that if contracts are terminated, it should be based on performance, now we don’t know the basis on which our contracts were terminated, we don’t know who did the assessment, we don’t understand what is happening,” a former staff with the mechanical maintenance team told Joy Business.
“What baffles us the most is that as Ghanaians are being sacked from the barge, they are bringing in their Turkish nationals, and to me it is very bad,” he added.
The workers suspect the senior engineering team members who are Turkish are finding it difficult working with them as a result of a language barrier, hence the decision.
“The problem is, they can’t speak the English language clearly, most of the times its sign language. But when they speak and you don’t get them, they are pissed off. They try to throw off their hands. To the extent that one of them threw an object at a Ghanaian one time,” another dismissed staff told Joy Business.
Some also claim they were not given adequate training to enable them work appropriately.
“The whole noise about Karpower that we all heard before we resigned from our jobs and came here, not even a single one of them has been met. You employ me and you give me training three months later… How?” one of them quizzed.
“Even that, the training coordinator told us after the training what he did was not enough so he informed our bosses to give us more training but they don’t want to release funds for the training,” he added.
The workers also accuse the senior officials of the Turkish company of discrimination.
“It got to a point they even had a staircase for Turkish. One for Ghanaians…when you walk on the stairs, they say this is for Turkish only, go and use the other staircase…” a dismissed engineer said.
Karpower Ghana has indicated it will issue a public statement on the issue soon.