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Opinions Fri, 10 May 2013

Labour agitation in the health sector

Labour agitation in the health sector: open letter to the president

Your Excellency, your statements made on the 1st May as part of the celebration of this day has prompted me to quickly couch this letter in apparent objective position.

Ghanaweb, Mr. President headlined your statement as: “Stop paying gov’t back with strikes-Mahama to Labour.”

The story reads that “…the successful implementation of the SSSS and its consequent swelling of public workers’ salaries must be appreciated rather than scorned.” “The implementation of the SSSS has ‘undoubtedly increased the take-home salary of the public sector workers exponentially’” the story reported.

With all due respect, your contention demonstrates that you are out of touch with realities in the labour front--the health sector to be precise. It’s therefore obvious that your officials at the salary negotiating team are not priming you with the real facts on the ground prior to your pronouncements on labour disputes.

While acknowledging that, indeed it is a truism that public sector workers’ salaries have swelled, it also of implicit importance to point out that this statement is inaccurate when confidently asserted with generalization. Since the implementation of the SSSS, some grades of pharmacists—particularly the Specialist Pharmacist, Deputy Director of Pharmacy, Principal Pharmacist—have unfairly suffered a reduction of their “take-home salary.” For example, Specialist Pharmacists, on the face of their pay slips, earning a gross salary of around GHC 3000.00 on the Health Sector Salary Structure (HSSS) now painfully scrape a salary of around GHC2800.00 on the SSSS—GHC 200.00 tad short!

Mr. President, this untenable injustice being meted unto pharmacists is coming at a time when the scope and horizon of pharmacy practice has expanded in accordance with the delivery of Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) services to people living with HIV-AIDS; NHIS claim generation; and clinical pharmacy ward rounds activities etc.

Your Excellency, another critical question to ask is why some public sectors are experiencing a swelling of their salaries whiles others are experiencing a negative decline. I implore that you kindly use your veritable office to institute an investigation into this unfair and cranky phenomenon. May it not come as a shocker if you later realize that Job Re-Evaluation scores that were generated by Price Water Coopers and upon which basic salaries of public sector workers are scientifically and objectively determined were shelved by the Fair Wages and Salary Commission.

For instance, a Pharmacist who scored 569 has been placed on the same level of the SSSS with other health professional groups—some even with scores as low as 495! In effect, professions with lower scores are arbitrary being given same basic salaries with others that scored higher. This neglect, deviation from scientific rigours, arbitrary decision, and abusive discretion by your representatives at the Fair Wages and Salary Commission has been the bane of the swelling of the public sector wage bill Mr President.

The above disregard to a vital scientific process of salary determination by the FWSC is absolutely unparallel with the slogan of the SSSS “equal pay for work of equal value” as well as starkly inconsistent with Article 24(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and Section 10(b) of the Labour Act, 2003.

Your Excellency, I would like to conclude my letter by thanking you for your perusal while I set the ground for the part two of “LABOUR AGITATION IN THE HEALTH SECTOR: OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT” bothering on other issues of contention—Market Premium and Conversion Difference—the startling root causes of the public sector wage bill inflation.

Article By:

Frank Kumi

Registered Clinical Pharmacist, Tamale Teaching Hospital

Member, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana

Contact: macfancy2g4@yahoo.com

Columnist: Kumi, Frank