The Ministry of Health has stated that any health worker who was not at post as from March 6, 2007 should consider himself or herself dismissed.
A letter dated March 5, 2007, signed by the Chief Director of the Ministry, Lepowura M. N. D. Jawula, on behalf of the sector minister, consequently directed all heads of health institutions to compile a list of recalcitrant staff to be forwarded to the Controller and Accountant-General to stop their salaries immediately.
Reacting to the ministry's directive, the Chairman of the Health Workers Group (HWG), Mr Raymond A. Tetteh, described the move as an empty threat.
“We are not worried at all. We don't even consider the circular as a threat”, he rebuffed it when the daily Graphic spoke to him at the weekend.
He argued that there were laid down requirements for firing health workers, saying the approach resorted to by the ministry was not one of such requirements.
Although Mr Tetteh could not be specific, he said a member of staff could only be sacked if he or she absented himself or herself for about two weeks and considering the fact that the strike was barely one week old and so unilateral, the ministry's directive was inappropriate.
He, nevertheless, indicated that the leadership of the HWG would meet tomorrow today to impress upon their striking members to call off the strike to enable the Appellate Body of the National Labour Commission (NLC) to continue work on resolving the impasse.
The NLC has described the strike as illegal, saying it was in bad faith coming at a time the parties were at the negotiation table.
For a couple of months now, members of the HWG have raised issues with what they consider to be anomalies in the salary structure of health workers.
As a way of expressing their displeasure, they resorted to the "work-to-rule" tactics where they worked, as they put it, like civil servants from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday only.
However, last week Monday, some health workers in the Greater Accra Region, decided to go on strike and that has attracted the fury of the sector Ministry which, this time, is not in the least eager to massage their ego.
"The Ministry takes a serious view of the ongoing strike", the letter said, and called on the striking workers to call off their action and go back to work immediately.
"Any health worker not at post by tomorrow, March 6, 2007, as per the duty roster, should consider himself or herself dismissed", it said categorically.
The letter has been posted on the notice boards of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Graphic indicates that it was faxed on March 5, 2007 and stamped as having been received by the Medical Director of the hospital on March 8, 2007.
The letter asked all heads of health institutions to send daily reports to the ministry through the Regional Director, on staff who reported for duty and those who failed to comply with the directive for the necessary action to be taken.
It further asked the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Chief Executives of the teaching hospitals to bring the directive to the attention of all their staff and report on the state of the strike with a list of absentee workers.
According to Mr Tetteh, the strike was not nationwide but only in some health facilities in parts of the Greater Accra Region, adding that it was not approved by the leadership of the HWG.
He explained that at a meeting of all the parties in dispute with the Appellate Body of the NLC on February 28, 2007, the parties were briefed on the progress of work of the body and given the assurance that by March 31, 2007, its report would be delivered.
Mr Tetteh said the leadership intended to convey that message to its members at a meeting the following day but they could not do so because they had to attend another meeting with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health.
He said due to the urgent nature of the meeting with the Select Committee, they could not meet and inform their members, some of whom interpreted the inability of the leadership to show up as failure to reach a favourable consensus on their grievances, hence the strike.
According to Mr Tetteh, the leadership took immediate steps to convince the striking members to rescind their decision but before they could do so, the Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister of Justice allegedly made some remarks that infuriated them.
The Deputy Attorney-General was alleged to have accused members of the HWG of holding meetings with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) with the intention of undermining the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Mr Tetteh said the decision of the HWG leadership to ask its members to call of the strike was to ensure that the Appellate Body continued with its work.
He expressed faith in the Appellate Body, which, he said, was a neutral body comprising respectable persons who had their reputation to protect and, therefore, believed that they would not do anything to create more chaos in the system.
Mr Tetteh said the NLC had done its best to ensure that the law was respected but indicated that as essential service providers, their grievances should be resolved with dispatch as enshrined in the Labour Law to prevent protracted and unnecessary labour unrest.
Story by Kofi Yeboah