Nurses Association strike violates Section 97 of Labour Act, (2003) Act 651: Government releases chronology on negotiations
Government, has described strike intentions by some members of the
Registered Nurses and midwives Association (GRNMA) as a clear violation to the principle of good faith that must govern every negotiation as provided for in Section 97 of the Labour Act, (2003) Act 651.
Per the Rules of Engagement signed at the inception of the negotiation process, parties agree that they will refrain from going to the press while negotiations are ongoing.
While the parties in the course of the negotiations have not declared a deadlock, members of the GRNMA have resorted to the media declaring their intention to go on strike beginning 21st September.
Though earlier reports on a press release by the National Association of Registered midwives declared its intention not to be part of the strike, it is unclear which group may have thrown their support behind the president of GRNMA, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo who signed and circulated the call to action.
But in order of chronology, Government, has explained its side of the story in the attached release issued by the Fair wages and salaries commission:
Release By Government:
ON THE INTENDED STRIKE ACTION BY THE GHANA
REGISTERED NURSES AND MIDWIVES ASSOCIATION (GRNMA)
Government is in receipt of a press release issued by the GRNMA declaring the Association’s intention to embark on a strike action beginning Monday, 21st September 2020. The press release has been widely circulated through social media wherein they have explained the basis of the intended action.
Per the Rules of Engagement signed at the inception of the negotiation process, parties agree that they will refrain from going to the press while negotiations are ongoing. While the parties in the course of the negotiations have not declared a deadlock, members of the GRNMA have resorted to the media declaring their intention to go on strike beginning 21st September. This is a clear violation to the principle of good faith that must govern every negotiation as provided for in Section 97 of the Labour Act, (2003) Act 651.
It is against this background that we have been compelled to also issue a press release to explain Government’s side of the story as facts stated in the various media have been skewed in favour of GRNMA.
We will therefore, in this write-up, give a chronology of events in the negotiation process and the extent to which members of GRMNA have violated provisions of the law.
On the 17th of September 2019, by a letter number FWSC/D/SCR/90/Vol.2/42 the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) wrote to the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) to formally request for proposals for the re-negotiation of their Conditions of Service.
This was after the GRNA had failed to respond to earlier informal overtures and the Government Team had concluded negotiations with all other professional associations within the Health Sector.
The FWSC needed to conclude negotiations with GRNMA so that the new rates of the allowances could be factored into the 2020 National Budget.
The Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives’ Association delayed their response till the 20th January 2020 when they officially submitted their proposals to FWSC.
FWSC after receiving and considering the said proposals set the 18th February 2020 for negotiations to begin and invited the GRNA by a formal letter.
However, on 17th February, 2020, just a day before the negotiation was to commence, the GRNMA, citing errors in the earlier proposal, per letter number GRNMA/S/20-02/17/01 re-submitted their Conditions of Service proposals.
Due to this new development and the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions, FWSC could not continue negotiations with GRNMA on their Conditions of Service after the re-submission of their proposals.
On 4th and 5th June, 2020, the Government Team led by FWSC engaged in meetings with GRNMA to officially kick-start negotiations with the Association on their Conditions of Service.
At this meeting GRNMA submitted nine (9) new proposals (non-core allowances) for the consideration of the Government Team.
Agreement was reached on ALL items presented in their original proposals except ‘Accommodation on Transfer’ and requested for time to study the nine (9) new proposals submitted, in order to ascertain their financial implications.
On 3rd September, 2020 the parties met to finalize negotiations on their Conditions of Service and the government presented counter proposals in respect of the nine (9) new proposals
The GRNA rejected all the counter proposals and immediately gave the Government Team a two-week ultimatum to come up with better counter proposals contrary to the Rules of Engagement.
On 15th September, 2020, both parties reconvened at the Ministry of Health to try to reach agreement on the nine (9) new proposals.
At that meeting both parties were able to reach agreement on the Non-Basic Salary Allowance, which was part of the nine (9) new proposals.
In order to ensure speedy conclusion of negotiations, another meeting was held on 16th September, 2020 at the instance of the Government Team to try to reach agreement on the eight (8) other proposals.
It must be noted that the Government Team, in principle, agreed to six (6) out of the eight outstanding proposals submitted by GRNMA, namely:
To be supplied by Government by way of a one-off payment by the Controller and Accountant General
Coverage of beneficiaries to be stepped down to include Principal Nursing Officers as against the current cut-off point of Deputy Director of Nursing and paid through the payroll
On Call Facilitation
This allowance is to be paid to specified classes of Nurses including:
The Government Team’s preferred option was for the allowance to be paid at the facility level vis-à-vis the payroll
Book and Research
This allowance is to be paid to Lecturers in Degree Awarding Institutions; Government to consider the rate or levels of payment as well as the mode of payment
This allowance is under consideration by Government in terms of eligibility criteria and the mode of payment
This allowance is to be paid subject to the outcome of a study to demarcate rural areas. The only allowances in the proposal that could not be positively considered were:
Transport Allowance is a Category 2 Allowance payable upon activities at the facility level and cannot be captured on payroll.
Rent is an Allowance limited, per the Single Spine Pay Policy, to Category A & B Officers ie. Directors and above throughout the Public Service. Any attempt to extend it to levels below the above-mentioned categories would create unfairness and a distortion in the single spine salaries structure, as it would be impractical (cost-wise) to replicate same across the rest of the civil and public services sectors.
The only point of departure was the mode of payment of these new allowances.
Both parties therefore agreed to a four (4) week time frame where concrete decisions would be taken on the outstanding proposals and also agreed to keep these out of the media for the duration of negotiations.
The Government Team is therefore at a loss as to why the GRNMA decided to declare an industrial action effective 21st September, 2020, contrary to the agreement reached on 16th September, 2020.
The Government Team therefore entreats the GRNMA to suspend their intended strike action, so that both parties could finalize negotiations within the four (4) week time frame already agreed upon.
Any attempt to embark on the strike action will not only be a display of bad faith but illegal and contrary to procedure spelt out in the Labour Act.
We are by this press release urging the leadership of the GRNMA to return to the negotiating table in order to reach agreement.