The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has again appealed to the government to address its grievances else it will go to court.
The President of the GMA, Dr Francis Adu-Ababio, told journalists at a press conference in Accra yesterday that the appeal was the last call to the government to sit down with the association to discuss all outstanding contentious issues which had been ruled on by the National Labour Commission (NLC) since last year.
Flanked by some members of the National Executive Council of the GMA, Dr Adu-Ababio said should everything fail, the association would have no alternative but to present the fact of its efforts to its membership for their advice.
He said the statement was not a threat to Ghanaians, neither was it an unreasonable demand that all the nation's resources be given to doctors nor a disregard for the selfless and invaluable contribution of the many civil servants who received meagre salaries.
Rather, it was a call for a dispassionate analysis of the contentious issues which the government had ignored.
He stressed that this time round it was rather the government which was freely and consistently perpetrating illegal behaviour which constantly threatened industrial harmony, not the association, as was being wrongly perceived by the public.
He said there existed many problems with the new salary structure for health workers instituted in June 2006, which had rather made them worse off but the government had failed to tackle them, in spite of persistent appeals and complaints by the association.
He said notwithstanding unfavourable public perceptions, the GMA had always sought to act in a manner which showed respect, both for the lives of Ghanaians and labour laws, saying that it was in pursuance of that principle that the association twice appealed to the NLC and obtained ruling in its favour, only for the government to ignore them.
Dr Adu-Ababio said, for instance, that on August 15, 2006, the NLC ruled that “the parties-management and the association should enter into negotiations in good faith to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that should spell out in detail the conditions of service, excluding the salaries for the medical doctors”.
He said some of the issues which the NLC asked the employers to discuss with the association were an unsigned memorandum of understanding, fuel allowance, undue delay in extending the new pay scheme to teaching hospitals, military and police hospitals, as well as quasi-government health institutions, and a wage opener clause.
He said in that same ruling, the NLC advised the employers that now that the GMA was registered as a trades union, “the employer could no longer take unilateral decisions on issues affecting the GMA, neither can the employer impose its decisions on it” but the decisions should be agreed upon by both parties.
He said after that ruling, the government rather responded by withdrawing the fuel allowance in a letter dated November, 15 2006.
“Significantly, as provocative as that move was, the GMA never declared a strike. Rather, it appealed again to the NLC, which ruled in December 2006 that all actions affecting the members of the GMA should be discussed with the association,” he explained.
He said the government had failed to look at the situation where financial rewards negotiated for and agreed on in the new pay structure were scaled down during a mapping and translation exercise and subsequent payment of salaries to doctors in June 2006.
Story by Lucy Adoma Yeboah