Doctors make new demands: UTAG meets govt today, pharmacists engage NLC Wednesday

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Nii Armah Ashietey, Minister of Employment and Labour RelationsThe Ghana Medical Association (GMA) says unless it sees clear written instructions from the Minister of Finance to the Controller and Accountant-General on agreements reached on two issues, it will not abandon its strike.

It named the two issues as payment of the market premium and the restoration of all deducted conversion difference of its members.

The association also advised the government to restore the payment of conversion difference which would ensure that the basic salaries of doctors were restored to the levels of the Health Service Salary Structure Pay Scale 1 (HSSS 1) before their migration onto the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), as stipulated in the government White Paper on the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP). 

Meanwhile, Sunday the National Executive Council (NEC) of the GMA said it had postponed its decision to suspend all emergency services for one week and asked doctors to continue to take care of in-patients until they were all discharged. 

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Meanwhile, there are reports that intense negotiations would continue this week between the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and the Ministry of Finance, on one side, and lecturers and pharmacists, on the other, in a fresh attempt to resolve issues over lump-sum payment of market premium arrears for 2012.

According to the reports, the social partners, comprising the government, employers and organised labour, would also continue to engage the striking unions in discussions, with the view to resolving the grievances of doctors, pharmacists and university teachers.

As part of the process of dialogue, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations has scheduled to meet the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and Vice-Chancellors, Ghana (VCG) to reach a common ground and get the lecturers back into the lecture halls.

Another meeting has been scheduled between the National Labour Commission (NLC) and the Government Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA) on Wednesday, April 17, this year over the implementation of the grade structure and interim market premium of pharmacists.

Again, the Public Sector Standing Joint Negotiations Committee (PSSJNC) has also proposed to meet with the pharmacists this week to find an amicable solution to their problems.

On Wednesday, April 17, the Accra High Court will hear a case brought by the NLC to compel the FWSC to implement the grade structure for pharmacists.

The FWSC has filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal to stay execution on the implementation of a ruling by the NLC on the grading of pharmacists in the public sector.

The NLC had, in January, this year, ruled that a grading structure provided by the Ministry of Health (MoH) on pharmacists should be used by the FWSC in its migration of pharmacists onto the SSSS.

The GMA’s position on its action so far was contained in a press statement signed by the President of the GMA, Dr Kwabena Opoku-Adusei, and the General Secretary, Dr Frank Serebour, and issued at the end of an emergency NEC meeting at its National Secretariat at Korle-Bu in Accra yesterday.

On April 7, the NEC of the GMA reactivated its road map suspended in February 2013 to withdraw all out-patient services and only attend to emergencies and in- patients from Monday, April 8 to Sunday, April 14, 2014.

It said further that from Monday, April 15, 2013, all emergency services would be suspended, while in-patient care continued until the patients were discharged.

The action, the GMA said, was necessitated by the refusal of the government to pay current market premium on 2012 basic salaries, contrary to the ruling of the NLC, pay market premium arrears accrued from January 2012 to date, correct the reduced pension contributions of its members and pay doctors their conversion difference.

“If all the afore-mentioned issues are not completely resolved by Sunday, April 21, 2013, then effective Monday, April 22, 2013 all emergency services shall be suspended, while in-patients care continues until the patients are discharged,” the GMA said.

The statement said the GMA had stated clearly that it would not accept any piecemeal and verbal solutions to those problems and would only reconsider its decision when there was clear evidence that the government, through the relevant agencies, had directed those anomalies and payment duly made.

However, at an emergency NEC meeting yesterday, the association took into consideration the proposal from the government as indicated in the MoU signed last Thursday, April 11, 2013 and the numerous appeals from well-meaning Ghanaians.

The NEC advised the government to restore the payment of conversion difference which it said would ensure that the salaries of doctors were restored to the levels of the HSSS 1 before migration onto the SSSS, ”as stipulated in the government White Paper governing the implementation of the SSPP”.

“The GMA would like to see clear written instructions signed by the Minister of Finance to the Controller and Accountant-General as to the agreed payments of our market premium and the restoration of all deducted conversion difference,” it said.

The NEC advised all doctors to go by the directive and continue to attend divisional meetings for updates.

Story: Emmanuel Bonney