strike

I would stand to always defend any Ghanaian worker who has worked but has not been paid even for a month. For this reason, I cannot stand to defend any excuse for not paying a worker who had met all conditions of employment and had submitted all that is required to place him on payroll. I cannot imagine working without pay when through no fault of mine, salaries have refused to come.

We have seen strikes in this country over unpaid salaries. That is worrying. I have always asked; would it not be in the interest of government, to cut short all these needless agitations, to pick the bio data of its potential employees such as teachers, nurses, doctors while in their final year in their various schools and process them onto payroll pending their postings, reporting and resumption of duties? In such instances, all that is required is information in relation to specific institutions of work, town, region and confirmation of one?s presence at work.

In my recent media engagements, I have taken a position that went in favour of individuals who went on strike to demand their salaries. It is important to watch Ghanaians take what they are due.

However, some of the strike actions surprises me. It makes me wonder the motives behind some of them. Included in those strikes that shook my bones to the surprise is that of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA).

The Association has embarked on its latest strike not over unpaid salaries, not over salary arrears, but rather, over failed negotiations over conditions of service.  As a matter of fact, July salaries of members of GMA have been paid.

Key among their demands for which they failed to reach agreement that led to this strike are:

?On-call-duty facilitation: 20% of basic salary. It used to be 10% of basic salary.
?Accommodation (in lieu): 40% of basic salary from its current position of 20% of basic salary.
?Fuel (House Officer- SMO): 80gallons per month
?Fuel (PMO ? Specialist): 90gallons per month
?Fuel (Sen Specialist- Consultant): 100gallons per month
?Clothing allowance: 30% of basic salary.

That is not all. In addition to the above, the GMA is also demanding that the following be instituted, all in addition to their basic monthly salaries:

1. Utility allowance: 20% of basic salary/ month
2. Special Risk Allow: 25% of basic salary/ month
3. Professional Allow: 50% of basic salary/ month
4. Vehicle Maintenance: 20% of basic salary/ month
5. Clothing allowance: 30% of basic salary
6. Overtime allowance: Should be increased from 40hrs/ week
to 200hrs/ week.
7. Waiver on importation of vehicles
8. Fully paid Postgraduate medical education
9. Fully paid Continuous Professional Development sanctioned by the Medical & Dental Council
10. Malpractice Insurance Cover for all doctors and dentists
11. Lump sum long service award: Last gross salary x 180
months (15years of service).

It is important to understand that one cannot approach a negotiation table empty-handed. Some content must be submitted around which all negotiations may center. But, whatever proposals there are that are  submitted to a negotiation table, they must appear to make sense to the ordinary taxpayer.

One of the arguments we have heard from the striking leadership was the assertion that they do not have any conditions of service. That cannot be true. Currently, every member of the Association who has been engaged by government had received a personal letter of appointment with terms of engagements spelt out. They know the salaries they are supposed to be paid, the allowances due them among other things. That is a form of condition of service. They are only seeking to make it better for themselves.

The recent argument attempting to equate the work of GMA members  to the work of Members of Parliament (MP) or politicians is to say the least disingenuous. Any political office holder is effectively a contract employee of the Government for a fixed period of time without any possibility of assuming continuous employment. Same cannot be said of a doctor who works until he goes on retirement or resigns.

As a President, a Vice President, or MP one is elected for 4 years, that is the maximum period he can expect to be in continuous employment. To the none-elected official he holds office at will. They are assessed by the court of public opinion every 4 years and then a determination is made as to whether they continue to be engaged.

Is the GMA telling me they want to be employed on those terms? Do they have to, as part of their normal employment go across the length and breadth of either their Constituency, District or the country to offer service? It would be difficult to receive remuneration as an Article 71 office holder when you are not one.

There are issues of importance that has come up in the public for discussion. The insults that are gradually coming out of the lips of the General Secretary of the GMA Dr. Frank Serebour exposes a man or perhaps an association that does not know the public and especially the taxpayer has a say in what his or her taxes are used for.

What I would expect is for the discussion to be lifted up so the public can be convinced why the members of GMA deserve everything contained in the document they submitted to the negotiation table.

If the GMA allows its General Secretary to continue on this tangent, I would have just this for the Association; even without postgraduate paid for by the ordinary taxpayer, you are using your first certificates to hold them to ransom. Wouldn?t they be a bigger fools to pay fully for your postgraduate so you would have more reason to hold them to ransom for upgrade because you have upgraded your certificates?

To conclude, it is not in any body?s interest for GMA to continue its strike while seeking an amicable resolution to the issue in contention. The right thing to do at this time is to call off the strike and return to the negotiating table. Enough of the use of innocent lives as bargaining chip.

God bless us all.

Source: Stephen Kwabena Attu, ASK!

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