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General News of Monday, 7 May 2007

Source: GNA

Health Workers' Group cautions on dismissals

Accra, May 7, GNA - The leadership of the Health Workers' Group (HWG) on Monday cautioned managements of hospitals to desist from dismissing or withholding the salaries of their members who have withdrawn their services saying this would contravene the labour law. The HWG said in a statement signed by Mr Abu Kuntulo, Secretary, that their industrial action was "lawful".

It noted the Chief Executive Officer of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital had written a letter, which had "threats and intimidation associated with the strike action by members of the HWG". It said the letter directed all sub, unit heads and administrators to submit the list of absentee workers who were perceived to be on strike by close of work each day with effect from May 2 "for necessary action to be taken".

The HWG said it was reminding their employers and management of the Ghana Health Service and Teaching Hospitals that section 63(2) clause (i) the Labour Law Act, 2005 stated that the termination of a worker's employment became unfair if the only reason for the termination of employment was that the worker refused or intended to refuse to work to enable him or her to participate in a lawful strike action. "We therefore hope the Chief Executive Officer's 'necessary action' would not be the withholding of the 'absentee workers' since this action would be in contravention with the law.

"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."

The leadership of the HWG asked its members to consider the directives as "empty threats" and "disregard" all other subsequent directives from any regional or district director or Chief Executive Officer.

"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 of the HWG and should not be abused by the management or the employer," it said. HWG embarked on an industrial action last week to press demands for review of their salaries.

Last Thursday, The National Labour Commission (NLC) criticised the Ministry of Health and the Health Workers' Group for various steps that had culminated in the strike by the workers. A letter signed by Mr K. Danso-Acheampong, Deputy Chairperson, to the Minster of Health and the Health Workers' Group after its meeting on May 2 read: "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 Ministry of Health as the ultimate employer of the workers must come out without further delay on what its final position was on the demands being made by the Health Workers' Group. On the Health Workers' Group, the NLC said their strike action was not in conformity with the Labour Act 2003 and therefore asked them to call it off immediately.

"The actions of all employers and workers must be guided by the apt statement of His Lordship the late Justice Asamoah in the NAGRAT case that 'legitimate right cannot be pursued using illegitimate means'. "That means all parties in industrial relations - organised labour, employers and government are obliged to make every reasonable effort to reach agreement in their dispute settlement by negotiating in good faith in order to realise the object of creating harmonious industrial relations environment in Ghana."

The NLC said it needed the maximum cooperation of all parties to industrial relations to succeed in its mission of developing and sustaining harmonious and peaceful industrial relations atmosphere and that it would continuously be guided by the Labour Act 2003 in its functions.