Feature Article of Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Columnist: Coffie, Emmanuel Dela
The industrial action embarked upon by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) can best be described as an illegality. No matter the justifications, the strike action has no basis in law and we must all condemn this illegal strike without fear or favour.
The Labour Act No 651 of 2003 allows for the apprehension of industrial disputes and sets out procedures for resolution of such disputes including arbitration. Section 153 encourages the parties to negotiate in good faith to reach a settlement using their own procedures agreed upon in CBAs or contracts of employment. If the parties cannot settle within 7 days, either or both parties may refer the dispute to the new 7-person National Labour Commission, whose prime function is to facilitate settlement of industrial disputes. Under section 154, the Commission can encourage the parties to try to settle again, using the services of a Commission-appointed mediator. If at the end of mediation (maximum 3 days) there is no settlement, the mediator declares the dispute unresolved and refers it to the Commission. At that stage, with the consent of the parties, the Commission may refer it to an arbitrator or arbitration panel, which has 7 days to settle it after notification of the hearing to the parties. The decision must be communicated to the parties in writing within 72 hours of being made. Where the dispute remain unsettled at the end of arbitration or the parties refuse to refer to voluntary arbitration, either party may give 7 days notice of intension to strike or lockout (s. 159). Special procedures for compulsory arbitration apply to essential services (s.162) and industrial action there is prohibited (s. 163). Section 175 defines essential services as “areas in an establishment where an action could result in a particular or total loss of life or pose a danger to public health and safety and such other services as the Minister [for Labour] may by Legislative Instrument determine.” The Commission’s awards in compulsory arbitration cases must be immediately published in the Gazette; they are final and binding, unless challenged, within 7 days, in the Court of Appeal on a point of law (s. 167).
Have the striking doctors exhausted these with the labor commission? Why not exhaust all the legal avenues as per the labour commissions act? Is it fair to conclude that Ghanaian doctors in general are greedy?
The fact that Ghanaian doctors are greedy and selfish is beyond doubt. But I never imagined that they could take their gluttonous self-indulgence to such lows by not going for arbitration before embarking on the industrial action. These doctors upon their education have no shame and do not realize that they are breaking the law. Who in a negotiation holds a gun pointing to the head of his employer? Other health professionals should be able to read in between the lines and see that these doctors are greedy lots and want the best for themselves alone. Listening to the Ghana Medical Association boss, you could see that these doctors are full of greed. They must be told that they are not the only professionals in Ghana and that everybody is equally important in this country. I suspect these doctors are hiding under some political cloak to cause mischief. Will they be happy if one day the police and the prison authorities go on strike and unleashed the criminals on us? Will they be in a position to even enjoy their money?
I think the medical Oath doctors swear has outlived its usefulness. Otherwise, they will not embark on this illegal strike. It appears these doctors do not understand or value the oath they swear. They no longer value human life; they value money than human life. What is so satisfying than saving human lives? What is so pleasurable than putting the health needs of others first to your own self needs? What is so pleasing than putting a smile on the faces of dying souls? This attitude is divine and can only be practice by people who are humane. The tax payer cannot continue subsidizing their education and expect such unbridled treachery from them. Their willingness to allow Citizens who literally finance their entire professional career to die as a result of their irresponsibility is an exhibition of ungratefulness to the state. Every well meaning Ghanaian must condemn their action and reject any attempt to hold the country to ransom. Everywhere within the developed world, professionals including teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors and all medical staffs are experiencing austerity measures amidst global financial crisis which includes slash in their professional benefits.
The Ghana Medical Association must call off their illegal strike and return to the negotiation table or better still proceed to the labour commission for compulsory arbitration. Otherwise, they should go out there and look for a so-called greener pastures elsewhere on the globe. They have bullied and cheated this nation for far too long and the country is no longer ready for their greed. They must note that those in their supply chain are in reality more important than them. Enough said.
Emmanuel Dela Coffie