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General News of Saturday, 8 June 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Mortuary workers urged to rescind decision

The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) has urged the Mortuary Workers Association of Ghana (MOWAG) to rescind their decision to call a strike action and come back to the negotiating table.

It said the Ministry of Health (MoH) had been directed to transform them from casual workers into regular workers and formalise their employment.

The Chief Executive of the Commission, Dr Edward Kwapong, said the doors of the commission remained open to MOWAG for engagements on their salaries and conditions of service, even as the government had given the go-ahead financially for their work to be formalised.

The encouragement from the FWSC to MOWAG to get back to the negotiation table comes at the heels of an indefinite strike called by the MOWAG.

The MOWAG called for an indefinite strike on May 29, 2019, accusing the FWSC, (MoH) and Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) of “running away from negotiations”.

The current disagreement between MOWAG and the government followed a directive issued by the National Labour Commission (NLC) in March this year charging all parties to sit and talk in good faith.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the CEO of the FWSC, Dr Edward Kwapong, said the commission was ready to sit and negotiate with the mortuary workers, but the workers needed to respect the rule of law and laid down procedures.

Budget

According to the CEO, negotiations took time and the FWSC sometimes needed to receive clearance from the Ministry of Finance on whether the government was able to accommodate workers’ demands in the national budget.

He said ever since the NLC called for a start to negotiations on salaries and conditions of service for mortuary workers, MOWAG had been shifting the “goal posts”.

“When negotiations began, the MoH wanted to know which health institution the General Secretary?of MOWAG was working with.

It came out that he was not working with any public or private health institution. The ministry then said it was not comfortable negotiating with someone who did not belong to any of the institutions it recognised,” he said .

Dr Kwapong said the MoH then asked for time to find out if it could negotiate with someone who did not belong to any health institution and all parties agreed to meet again on May 29, this year.

He said on May 28, MOWAG wrote to the commission saying that if it did not hear from the FWSC it would call a strike and thus required the FWSC to get all the parties to the table.

However, at the appointed meeting on May 29, only the President and General Secretary of MOWAG represented the association with the two announcing later that they were going to consult the membership of the association on matters discussed but subsequently announced the strike action.

Embalmers

Dr Kwapong said another worrying issue was that MOWAG members were calling themselves embalmers.

He said since the description of embalmer was not recognised among job classes at the MOH, MOWAG was asked to submit to a job description, analysis, evaluation and placement.

“But it said it was not interested in that,” he added.

Based on the aforementioned issue, Dr Kwapong said the FWSC had to ensure that it was dealing with a class of workers with a collective bargaining certificate (CBA).

Consequently, he said, the FWSC received a letter from the Labour Department that it had withdrawn the CBA of MOWAG and, therefore, they were advised to go and set their house in order.

Dispute

But the General Secretary of MOWAG, Mr Richard Jordan, has disputed the assertions by Dr Kwapong and has also accused the government of bad faith and deliberately delaying implementation of an improved salary scheme for its members.

He said following the withdrawal of MOWAG’s CBA, no processes had been followed except for a letter the association received from the Chief Labour Officer that its CBA had been withdrawn.

“What does the Labour Department do in granting the CBA? Does it not check? And what must it do if it has to withdraw? Does it not consult with us?,” Mr Jordan asked.

He believes, therefore, that there is something fishy about the way and manner the association’s CBA was withdrawn and communicated.

According to him, the MoH and the FWSC had looked up the constitution of MOWAG at the Labour Department and had found that MOWAG could appoint anyone and not necessarily a mortuary worker to be an administrative staff.