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08.05.2007 Health

Striking Health Workers rebuff authorities

By myjoyonline

The national leadership of the Health Workers Group (HWG) has rebuffed as empty threats, a directive from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) for the submission of a list of absentee workers who are perceived to be on strike by close of work each day with effect from 2nd may, 2007 for necessary action to be taken.

The group issued a press statement on Monday condemning the directive and asked its members to remain steadfast in pursuing a legal cause, describing the strike action embarked upon since Monday last week as a legal action.

The statement was signed by Mr. Abu D. Kuntulo, Secretary of the Health Workers Group, and said the leadership hoped the "necessary action" promised by the authorities would not be the withholding of wages or termination of the employment of the 'absentee workers' since such an action would be in contravention with the labour law.

Read the full statement:

“We wish to inform all members of the Health Workers' Group (HWG) that the attention of the National Leadership of the HWG has been drawn to a letter No. KB/P-349 dated 2nd May, 2007 from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) relating to threats and intimidation associated with the strike action by members of the HWG.

The CEOs letter directs that all Sub-BMC/Unit Heads and Administrators should submit the list of absentee workers who are perceived to be on strike by close of work each day with effect from 2nd May, 2007 for necessary action to be taken.

However, we would like to remind our Employers and Management of the GHS/THs that the Labour Law Act, 2003 (Act 651) section 63(2) clause (i) states clearly that the termination of a worker's employment becomes unfair if the only reason for the termination of employment is that the worker refused or intends to refuse to work to enable him or her to participate in a lawful strike action.

We therefore hope that the Chief Executive Officer's (CEOs) "necessary action" would not be the withholding of wages or termination of the employment of the 'absentee workers'. (as he puts it in his letter) since this action would be in contravention with the labour law.

It must be reiterated that all Administrators and some Sub-BMC/Unit Heads who are also members of the HWG are hereby cautioned to desist from the violation of section 63(2) clause (i) of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) (quoted above).

By this memorandum all members of the HWG are urged to remain resolved and focused in pursuit of equitable salary through this lawful industrial action.

Members should therefore consider the CEO's and the DGs directives as an empty threat and disregard all other subsequent directives from any Regional or District Director or CEO.

It should be observed that the issue of skeleton staff put in place at the health facility levels was a contingency arrangement by the National Executive council (NEC) of the HWG and should not be abused by Management or the Employer.”

Meanwhile the National Labour Commission has said the strike action was unlawful but found government's attitude to the whole issue unbecoming.

According to the Ghanaian Times, a statement signed by Mr. Danso Acheampong, Deputy chairperson of the Commission said legitimate rights cannot be pursued using illegitimate means and urged that the strike be called off immediately.

The Commission however said that the Ministry of Health, as the ultimate employer of the health workers, must come out without further delay on what its final position is on the demands being made by the HWG.

"The commission finds the Ministry of Health's inability to go by the timetable conscientiously agreed upon in relation to the release of the Appellate Body's Report at the parties' meeting with the commission very unhelpful," it said.

The statement said all parties in industrial relations were obliged to make every reasonable effort to reach agreement in their dispute settlements by negotiating in good faith in order to realise the object of creating harmonious industrial relations environment in the country.

It called for maximum support from parties to industrial relations for the commission to succeed in its mission of developing and sustaining harmonious industrial relation atmosphere in the country.

It is recalled that members of the HWG embarked on an indefinite strike action last week to back their demand to government to bridge the salary gap between its members and doctors.

The disparity came about as a result of the withdrawal of the Additional Duty Hour Allowance.