Gov’t Deems Doctors Strike Action As Illegal – Felix Kwakye Ofosu

A Deputy Minister designate for the Information Ministry, Felix Kwakye Ofosu has described as “illegal” the strike action embarked on by medical doctors in the country, since their action contravenes the laws of the country.

Felix Ofosu Kwakye posits that doctors fall under the category of public sector workers who render ‘essential services’ and therefore not permitted under Section 163 of the Labour Act to embark on strike.

Explaining to Radio Gold Monday morning the flaws in the argument that has necessitated the doctors’ nationwide strike, he stated that the declaration by the members of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) to withdraw all out-patient services starting today, April 8, 2013 infringes the Labour laws which regulate the services of public sector workers in the country.

He cited Act 651, Section 168 of the labour law which spells out how public servants should conduct themselves, asserting that the doctors have contravened this provision and so, the onus lies with them to attend to patients.

The Medical doctors in the country a couple of weeks ago held discussions with government, requesting payment of their 2012 market premium arrears.

They threatened to embark on a strike action if government refuses to pay up the arrears and also address other inconsistencies in their pay policy.

The doctors have been demanding the payment of current market premium on their salaries and arrears accrued since January 2012. They have also asked the government for some rectifications to be done in their pension contributions and payment of their conversion difference.

Though government has indicated the arrears would be paid out to the doctors in three installments beginning from May 2013; four months arrears, to September 2013, the medical practitioners will however from today not offer services to patients not on admission.

They have rather assured the public they would only attend to patients already on admission and offer emergency services till April 14, 2013.

President of the Association, Dr. Kwabena Opoku Adusei, at a news conference in Kumasi said the members would suspend all medical services by April 15,2013 should government not look at their grievances.

Nonetheless, the Information Deputy Minister designate has explained government’s position on the recent development by the public sector workers.

According to him, “Government deems this strike action embarked upon by doctors as illegal.

It is illegal to the extent that it violates several provisions of our labour laws. Indeed, Act 651 or the Labour Act, 2003 clearly spells out how labour relations are to be conducted in this country. Now, if you look at Section 168 of the labour Act, it spells out clearly that a certain category of public sector workers who render what is called ‘essential services’ are not permitted to embark on strike action. Doctors fall under this category of public sector workers and therefore it is inexplicable that in spite of being fully aware of this provision in our labour laws; our doctors would embark on this strike action.”

He further stated that “another provision which this action violates is Section 158, which enjoins all parties in a labour dispute who have submitted themselves for arbitration to abide by the ruling or what is known as the arbitral award that is given by the Arbitral panel.

In this instance, it is the National Labour Commission which mediated between the doctors on one hand and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission on the other hand…Section 158 of our labour laws make it clear that all parties are bound by the ruling that is given by the National Labour Commission.”

He therefore insisted that the doctors’ recent action is “strange and completely illegal for doctors to embark on the strike action they have embarked upon today and therefore I think that they will be minded to call off the strike, and attend to their responsibilities because it is completely not in the interest of the country. It is against the country’s laws for them to continue in this particular week.”