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06.04.2007 General News

Government’s disrespect for labour law frowned upon

By myjoyonline

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) is displeased with what it calls government's total disrespect for the decisions reached at the negotiating table and disregard for the tenets of the Labour Law.

The GMA says it is a threat to industrial harmony.

According to the GMA, even as it has sought to use legal means to resolve labour disputes, government ridiculed two rulings of the National Labour Commission.

The President of Ghana Medical Association, Dr. Francis Adu-Ababio disclosed this at a press briefing in Accra.

He narrated that the GMA's negotiation with the Government Management Team on the issues of salaries and conditions of service for its members, came about following an invitation from government to discuss a new Health Sector Salary Scheme proposed by government.

He said the negotiation which was held on March 9, 13 and 15 of 2006 were conducted in a civil atmosphere devoid of any looming threat of industrial unrest, adding that, it tackled the initial promise of putting to an end the perennial state of tension that characterised the health front through the institutionalisation of an orderly timetable for regular review of service conditions.

He emphasized that, “we are getting used to the phenomenon of government officials' quick move to label industrial unrests by various labour unions illegal and the judiciary's even quicker move to rule on the matter.”

“The Ghana Medical Association is seeking advice from the good people of Ghana, what to do when this time round, it is the government that freely and consistently perpetrates illegal behaviour that constantly threatens industrial harmony,” he mentioned.

Dr. Adu-Ababio explained that the news conference was in no way intended as a threat to the good people of Ghana nor was it an unconscionable demand that all the nation's resources be given to doctors but should be seen as a call by the National Executive Council of the GMA for a dispassionate analysis of the contentious issues raised and together find best ways of securing the health of Ghanaians.

He was of the view that since all medical officers have served specific years on their ranks with varying experiences, it should have been that the number of years of every ranked doctor would correspond to a specific level in the pay bands, instead of the irrational aggregation of doctors with varying years of experience at the same levels with the same salaries.

Other concerns he raised were the exclusion of doctors in the teaching hospitals who no longer earned what was negotiated for them by the GMA but rather being paid a "top-up", which placed most of them at serious disadvantage, noting the top-up was even in three months arrears already.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health (MOH), according to him, has issued a letter to the effect that starting April 7, the senior members should sign some form of contract with the Teaching Hospitals before being paid their top-up.

He stated that the inevitable fall¬out was the negative rebound effect these policy breaches were having on attempts to attract as well as retain young lecturers, noting there was now little or no attraction to teach in the Medical/Dental School and this was obviously a long term negative effect on medical education in Ghana.

He enumerated other issues bothering the GMA as its conditions of service, freezing of promotions, rent reductions, abrogation of fuel allowance and car loan deductions, among others.

Touching on the way forward, Dr. Adu-Ababio hinted that it was the last call on government to sit down with "us and discuss all outstanding contentious issues that have been ruled upon by the National Labour Commission".

He stated that the need for a comprehensive Collective Bargaining Agreement as ruled by the NLC could not be over emphasized, stressing if this failed, "we will re-examine our obviously limited options including seeking redress at the law courts if the National Executive Council of the GMA so decides".

He however called on government to harmonize the activities of the many bodies that seek to rationalize salary administration issues in this country, adding the GMA was poised to make representations before all the bodies engaged in the negotiations to pursue the interests of "our members".

"Should all else fail, we would have no other alternative than to present the facts of our efforts to our discerning members who would then advise on further action accordingly".

The Assistant General Secretary (GMA), Dr. Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey said in an interview with The Chronicle that they were far away from strike action because when "we go on strike, it does not benefit Ghanaians".