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General News of Monday, 24 April 2006

Source: GNA

Kufuor pleads with health workers

... worried about spate of industrial strikes
PRESIDENT Kufuor has appealed to all workers engaged in industrial action to put the national interest above everything else and resort to dialogue in their quest for improved salaries and wages.

Presidential Press Secretary Kwabena Agyepong who conveyed the appeal, said Kufuor has consistently expressed concern about the generally low level of salaries of workers and was working seriously to improve things.

Kufuor asked the country's striking health workers to exercise patience and restraint as efforts were being made to address their grievances.

"The President shares their concerns and it is important to let the national interest and good sense to prevail", his Press Secretary, Mr Kwabena Agyepong, said at a Castle press briefing on Monday. He said it was the view of President Kufuor that the nation should have a humane and realistic pay structure for all and this should be done through broader consultations before a new salary model was adopted.

Mr Agyepong said it should be acknowledged that the Government from a daily minimum wage of about 50 cents had raised it to almost two dollars.

It has also been pursuing pro-poor policies including, free bus ride for school children, at least a day's hot meal for school children and the capitation grant.

Last week, health workers in the country?s biggest hospital, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, defied a mediation effort by the National Labour Commission (NLC) and embarked on a strike action to press home their demands for a better salary structure.

The Press Secretary, who is also the Presidential Spokesperson, reacted to claims by some Minority Members of Parliament (MPs), which sought to question the basis for selection of districts to benefit from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), saying this was done after wide ranging and exhaustive consultations.

The beneficiary districts, he said, spanned the entire length of the country from the North, through the Afram Plains to the Southern horticultural belt, adding that it was based on stringent criteria. Ghana is expected to draw about 500 million dollars from the MCA after the signing of the country's Compact, which has been fixed for July 28.

This would be used to modernize the agricultural sector of the economy through irrigation, construction of roads, building of cold storage facilities, schools, supply of electricity and other social infrastructure.