Grameen Telecom: Its profits meant for achieving objectives
The Grameen Telecom (GTC) responded to the statement given by the foreign ministry on September 1.
The GTC was created in 1997 as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under Section 28 of the Companies Act, 1994, of Bangladesh. As per the legal status of GTC, profits of the company are not distributable and are reinvested for attaining the social objectives for which the company was established, said a statement sent by GTC.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) had objected that according to the Bangladesh Sramik (Labourer) Kalyan Foundation Law, GTC had neither created a workers' participation fund and welfare fund, nor deposited 5 percent of its profits.
GTC said in the statement that as a not-for-profit company that reinvests all profits, they are not legally required to create this fund.
Furthermore, the statement points out that the courts did not even follow the penalties prescribed in the law for not establishing these funds.
"If any company fails to act, then the court may fine the person or persons responsible for management of the company for an amount not exceeding Tk 1 lakh and, in the case of continuous failure, a further amount of Tk 5 thousands for every day from the first day of such failure and direct to pay the total amount of fine within the next 30 days," states the law.
If the amounts that should have been given to the fund remain unpaid, that amount shall be recovered, states the law.
"The four individuals, including Prof Muhammad Yunus, are all non-executive board members and do not have any proprietary interest in the company's affairs. Yet, criminal cases have been filed against them by DIFE. This is extraordinary and demonstrates clear malicious intention to harass them," said the statement.
Starting from 2017, a total of 106 employees of GTC filed 106 cases with the Labour Court. The Grameen Telecom Employee Association also filed an industrial dispute case with the Labour Court, said the statement.
Concealing the information of their industrial dispute case with the Labour Court, the employee association filed a petition with the High Court seeking the winding up of GTC, it added.
When this case was accepted at the High Court, GTC decided not to aggravate this dispute and settle the matter out of court, they said.
A total of Tk 437 crore was paid out to the employees' accounts and 156 out of 164 employees have already received the money, said GTC.
Law enforcement agencies filed a criminal case against the GTC stating that there is no provision in the labour law for distributing GTC's money directly to the employees.
The statement also addressed the money laundering case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission against Prof Yunus and others.
"A major condition in the settlement agreement was that GTC employees will collectively receive an amount of Tk 437 crore. Later, a mistake in the earlier calculation was detected and the revised estimate stood at BDT 409.7 crore. Both the GTC authority and the employee association accepted the recalculated amount as appropriate. As per the condition in the settlement agreement, the money was transferred to the bank account determined by both parties," said the statement.
The lawyers were supposed to get paid 6 percent of the settlement, but upon seeing the revised amount, they refused to accept it. "This would put GTC in a new conflict and, instead of keeping the debate alive until a solution was arrived at or having to go to the court again spending precious time and money, GTC agreed to pay the amount determined earlier," said the statement.
The ACC alleges in the case that the employee association paid a small portion of the money to the lawyers and misappropriated the rest.
"The GTC board including its chairman and other members did not have even the remotest connection to this transaction because the money, upon written undertakings from all the employees to pay lawyer fees from their individual dues, was transferred from the settlement account to the Union account and neither GTC nor any of its board members had to do anything with the Union account nor has any authority on it," said GTC.
The ACC also alleges that the agreement between GTC and the employees were signed on April 27, 2022, but the bank account was opened on May 8, 2022, but the settlement agreement mentions a bank account number.
"The fact is that the settlement agreement was composed on a computer and signed on April 27, 2022, but room was kept blank in the agreement for putting the bank account number when it was received. Later, after the bank account was opened, the account number was written by hand upon consent from both parties," it said.
"Writing the bank account number by hand in a formal agreement on mutual consensus does not make an agreement illegal or prove that it has been forged."
GTC also pointed out that the High Court had initially settled the matter.