Representatives of the Mortuary Workers Association of Ghana (MOWAG), last Wednesday reported to the National Labour Commission (NLC) progress of discussions it had held with the government on efforts being made to resolve grievances in connection with their conditions of service .
The move follows a directive the NLC issued to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR), Ministry of Health (MoH), Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and MOWAG to appear before it last Wednesday to report on progress made so far.
The National Chairman of MOWAG, Mr Edward Mensah Akpakudi and the General Secretary of the association, Mr Richmond Jordan and a representative of the FWSC, Mrs Mawusi Bedzrah, who is also the acting Director of Grievance Handling and Negotiation were present at the progress report meeting.
After the meeting with MOWAG and FWSC, the Executive Secretary of the NLC, Mr Ofosu Asamoah, told the Daily Graphic that the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the MoH had made it known to the commission that further discussions on the conditions of service for the morticians would take place between March 18 and 20 this year.
The proposed meeting, he said, would this time include the Ministry of Finance which is the government paymaster.
"After they have met, the parties are expected to report back to the NLC on the conclusion of issues discussed," he said.
He said last Tuesday that the association forwarded proposals on its expected conditions of service to the parties paving the way for discussions.
On March 5, 2019, morticians in government hospitals declared a strike to demand better conditions of service.
Under the circumstances, clients who had the bodies of their loved ones at the morgue and wanted them preserved were left stranded.
The NLC intervened and directed the parties to sit and discuss the matter leading to the association’s executives calling off the strike on Thursday, March 7, 2019.
The executives say however that they are only holding on for sometime to see how the latest discussions progress.
In an interview with the General Secretary of MOWAG, Mr Jordan, he said the strike action started on March 5, 2019 had only been suspended until further notice.
He expressed his disappointment with managers of the country's health service for being so oblivious of the importance of the death care industry.
According to him, judging by what pertained in the private sector in Ghana and the developed countries, the sector had the potential to make money for the government.
He said the association wanted issues such as hiring of mortuary workers on casual basis and the haphazard processes of recruiting them properly addressed.
It also wants the right of workers to paid leave, risk allowance and a safe working environment to be respected.
"The rights of mortuary workers cannot be abused forever," he said.
Mr Jordan said mortuary attendants worked under difficult and unsafe conditions, adding that "in mortuaries in the country, dead bodies are packed like 'momone”.
He said his colleagues and himself struggle very hard not to step on dead bodies when working.
In addition, he said, they sometimes have to contend with malfunctioning freezing systems in mortuaries with the risk of contracting infections through fluids from corpses.
"The most dangerous aspect of our work is in our daily use of formalin in preserving dead bodies. The preservative has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a chemical with "probable carcinogenic properties", meaning that it can cause cancer.
He said mortuary workers also faced stigmatisation from the society as people shunned them because of their work.
“When you consider all the challenges mortuary workers go through, they have to be paid well in order to compensate for the difficulties they face in their work," Mr Jordan said.