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Doctors, FWSC meeting ends inconclusively

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Mr George Smith-Graham, FWSC Boss

The hopes of Ghanaians that medical doctors on government payroll would end their month-long strike diminished last Friday when a meeting called to address the issues at stake was called off at the last minute.

The meeting had been convened by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and was attended by organised labour, represented by the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah, and the National Labour Commission (NLC).

The meeting was in line with an order by the High Court for an out-of-court settlement of the impasse between the NLC and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA).

Recounting the GMA’s disappointment in an interview with the Daily Graphic,  its General Secretary, Dr Frank Serebour, said at last Friday’s meeting, the Chief Executive of the FWSC, Mr George Smith-Graham, had reported that the Post-Migration Technical Committee set up in November 2012 to review the migration of workers from various salary structures to the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) had completed its report.

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He said Mr Smith-Graham then impressed upon attendees to suspend the meeting and rather go for a discussion on the report, which would have a bearing on conversion differences and reduced pensions, issues on which doctors were on strike.

"We, therefore, suspended the meeting at the NLC and went to the meeting place of the Public Services  Joint Standing Negotiating Committee (PSJSNC) at 2 p.m. as scheduled," Dr Serebour said.

"Mr Smith-Graham came a few minutes after we had sat down, only to tell us that the report for which the meeting had been convened was not ready, and for that reason the meeting should be postponed indefinitely. We were quite exasperated, but there was nothing we could do but to leave," he added.

He said what happened on Friday was similar to several other instances when the government had either failed to turn up for meetings to discuss doctors’ concerns or turned up with an excuse that prevented fruitful deliberations for the resolution of doctors’ grievances.

The Public Services Joint Standing Negotiating Committee (PSJSNC) is the highest decision-making body on the implementation of the SSSS, made up of representatives of the FWSC, on the one hand, and representatives of all labour unions, on the other.

The Post-Migration Technical Committee is made up of representatives of the FWSC, organised labour, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP), the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD), as well as the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).

Its report was to bring to light the challenges involved in migrating public sector workers with separate salary structures onto the unitary SSSS and prescribe measures of redress.

The report was to be discussed at the PSJSNC for any decision to be owned by workers collectively, preventing any group from breaking ranks and claiming a different arrangement in relation to its placement on the SSSS. 

 Mr Asamoah told the Daily Graphic before the aborted meeting that he was hopeful that the report would help resolve the issues.

He said the government had not been able to accede to the request of doctors for a written commitment to pay them conversion differences, which is the amount paid to some job holders to ensure that they are not worse off after being placed on the SSSS.

Mr Smith-Graham also shared similar sentiments when interviewed prior to the aborted meeting and expressed the hope that doctors would go back to work, once the report was discussed and a collective decision taken.

On Monday, April 29, 2013, the GMA held a news conference on the lack of commitment on the part of the government in resolving doctors’ grievances and cited the absence of government representatives at several mediation meetings.

It also mentioned the report of the Post Migration Technical Committee which it said had been touted by the government to address issues of conversion differences and pensions.

Story: Caroline Boateng