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09.06.2006 General News

NLC To Go To Court

By Graphic
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The National Labour Commission (NLC) will go to court next Monday if striking workers refuse to adhere to its order to call off their industrial action, the Deputy Chairperson of the NLC, Mr Kwesi Danso-Acheampong, has said.

He said under Section 172 of the Labour Law, the commission is mandated to go to court for an order to compel such workers to comply with its orders.

That, he stressed, is an obligation which the law had put on the commission and not an option.

Responding to the apparent turmoil on the labour front in Accra yesterday, Mr Danso-Acheampong told the Daily Graphic that the commission had already sent a directive to all striking workers, some of whom had not followed the due process in withdrawing their services, to go back to work.

He said the solicitors of the commission were currently preparing documents to file a writ at the court if the workers did not call off their strike yesterday.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA), on May 26, 2006, held a press conference announcing a strike by June 9, 2006 if the government did not implement the new salary structure by then.

Junior doctors have already embarked on a strike for the non-payment of their new salaries.

On Wednesday, the Health Workers Group (HWG), the umbrella body of allied health workers, announced its decision to withdraw its services with immediate effect, because of the salary disparities and inequalities in the health sector.

Apart from that, the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) are on strike, demanding, among others, a 40-per cent increase in their salaries, the restoration of the end-of-service benefits (ESB) and the payment of risk allowances.

Mr Danso-Acheampong explained that the commission had decided to take court action now because of the blatant disregard of the labour law by workers.

He recounted how the WHG had complained to the NLC about disparities in their salaries and those of doctors, an issue that the NLC had compulsorily arbitrated on, ruled and given an order, directing a mapping exercise to bridge the perceived gaps in salaries among health workers.

He was of the view that since the parties to the dispute, including employers, health administrators and the junior doctors, had all sat, negotiated and agreed to the order of the commission, it was not right for them to resort to an illegal strike, especially when they had not gone to the courts to register their grievance or appeal against the order.

Mr Danso-Acheampong said the NLC did not go to the courts when the junior doctors initially went on strike because the issue raised by the doctors then was an administrative one.

He explained that now that the commission had ordered all striking groups to go back to work as their actions were illegal, it was logical for the commission to go to court to enforce its order.

When asked why the government had not taken advantage of the provisions in the Labour Law to sack, withhold salaries or make illegal striking workers pay for the man hours lost through their strike, Mr Danso-Acheampong said employers might be strengthened to resort to any of the enforcement procedures, if the NLC went to court to compel striking workers to return to work.

He was of the opinion that although it was not likely that the workers could disregard the court order, employers would be emboldened to apply sanctions if need be.

He was, however, of the view that the confusion in industrial relations had to stop with immediate effect, as it painted an unfavourable picture of the country internationally.

He therefore called on the media and the public to challenge the illegal actions of the workers and make good the country's pledge in the 1992 Constitution to abide by the rule of law.

Mr Danso-Acheampong cautioned all radio presenters and contributors, who are not initiated in the Labour Law, to be careful in their submissions on air, as that could whip up sympathy for the illegal actions of some workers, thereby undermining industrial relations in the country.

Story by Caroline Boateng

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