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Opinions Tue, 23 Apr 2013

Nurses to strike if pharmacists get higher salary

The threat issued by the President of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA), Mr. Asante Krobea to embark upon a strike if the demands of striking pharmacists are acceded to should not be entertained since it is entirely misplaced and staggers on tenuous logic.

Mr. Asante’s threats is based upon the fact that pharmacists have been moved a step upwards from 18L to 18H on the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) and therefore the entry point of the degree nurse should also be treated same. It is very startling to realize that his demand lacks basic logic, and not even premised on any scientific basis.

It is important for the public to bear cognizance that prior to the implementation of the Single Spine, a comprehensive job evaluation for every professional group was executed by labour consultants, Price Water Coopers. The job evaluation, based upon the job description of every single profession provided by the employer sought to establish a scientific backing, devoid of personal judgments and bias during the determination of the salaries of public sector workers.

After a Job Re-evaluation by Price Water Cooper, it was revealed that a host of other professionals—the entry point of a Nurse inclusive--scored far below the level of the pharmacist grade. As clear as it was, the exit point of the nursing profession on the SSSS, a Principal Nurse, even scored 597—only 28 points higher than the entry point of the pharmacist. The Pharmacist scored 569 while the Medical Officer (entry grade of doctors on the SSSS) obtained 791.

However, contrary to the rational for conducting the scientific job evaluation of which huge amounts of moneys had spent on by the Government, the Fair Wages and Salary Commission (FWSC) and the Management of the health ministry arbitrary placed all degree-holding health professionals on the same level—18L. Upon realizing this galling and despicable injustice, pharmacists registered their displeasure and threatened to withdraw their services. National Labour Commission (NLC) stepped in and decided to settle the contentious matter of grade structure of GHOSPA members through a compulsory arbitration since the FWSC persistently disregarded the plea of pharmacists.

After an arduous and painstaking patience of seeking justice spanning two years, occasionally characterized by legitimate agitation by pharmacists, the NLC decided to rule on the grade structure of government and hospital pharmacists. Even though pharmacists initially demanded that their entry point is started from 19L, the NLC upon meticulous analysis of the reasonable fundamental basis of the clamours being made by the pharmacists, eventually decided to start them from 18H.

It is interesting to note that the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) had similar justifiable concerns after the initial placement of its members unto the SSSS. The Medical Officer who scored 791, had been placed at 20H, where as the Principal Nursing Officer also with a lower score of 597 had been placed at the same level of 20H irrespective of the scientific analysis and salary relativities espoused by the Job Re-Evaluation. This inconsistency was however resolved-- Medical Officer was moved from 20H to 21L— at Dodowa by the FWSC after unrelenting protest by the GMA following a stakeholder’s forum at the instance of the Ministry of Health (MoH).

This entire blatant disregard to the scientific basis of establishing salaries of government workers has all along been the fundamental cause of the unremitting labour agitation as well as inflation of the wage bill. Some professional groups on the SSSS, particularly the nurses were favoured by the FWSC without any justification; but based on mere benevolence, discretion and disregard to job evaluation. There is therefore a strong cause to believe that some officials at the Fair Wages and Salary Commission are flouting the fundamental principles of any Job Evaluation: strict commitment to objectivity, fairness, and equitable treatment to all employees.

Mr Smith Graham, the Chief Executive Officer of FWSC whose spouse happen to be a public sector nurse and Mr Cornelius Yawson (Head of Grievance Review Committee of FWSC) believed to be the labour consultant for the nurses have taken a dangerous personal stance for disregarding these tenets of Job Evaluation. In a confidential document to the NLC, Mr Graham insinuated that if the NLC accedes to the pharmacists quest for justice, the over 24,000 nurses shall also have a cause to disrupt the labour front. In that document, according to him, the minority of 500 pharmacists have no political impact, and that any strike action embarked upon by pharmacists would have a significantly lesser impact as compared to the nursing work force.

It should therefore come as no surprise that following NLC’s ruling of serving justice, the nurses are sequentially embarking on a purposeless escapade of resisting the pharmacists’ demand for fairness and justice. Could it be that Mr Graham and Mr Yawson are using the nurses as professional pawns to intentionally deny justice to the pharmacists?

The Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Ministry of Employment, and the Ministry of Health as a matter of urgency, institute an investigation into the murky conduct of these two main officials at the FWSC as their actions are a complete antithesis to harmony and unity among labour unions, in addition to national development. All hunches indicate that the strange and sudden threat of strike action by the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) are undeniably being fomented by these two gentlemen at the FWSC who are embroiled in a serious conflict of interest.

The farcical demand by the President of the GRNA that nurses should receive the same salaries as pharmacists, without any scientific ground clearly has no merit and should therefore be regarded as a malicious attempt in causing a stir and disunity in the health sector.

Nurses’ educational training and that of the pharmacists are completely different so is their unique roles played in the delivery of healthcare. In effect, the Job Evaluation based on their respective job descriptions elicited the dichotomy between these two health professions. Mr. Asante and the FWSC are being challenged to boldly publish the scores of the nurses and the pharmacists as shown by the Job Evaluation conducted by Price Water Coopers.

Article by:

Frank Kumi,

Spokesperson, GHOSPA, Northern Region

Member, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana

Columnist: Kumi, Frank