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Lawyer for striking nurses accuses Health Ministry of intimidation 

The strike by nurses and midwives over poor conditions of service and inability to reach a consensus with the government was justified, says counsel

A lawyer for the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) has called out the Ministry of Health over what he describes as attempts to “coerce” the association following its decision to embark on strike action.

The GRNMA, made up of physician assistants (PAs) and certified registered anaesthetists (CRAs), embarked on a strike action on Monday (21 September) to support members’ complaints of poor conditions of service and lack of agreement between the government and the association after months of negotiations.

The GRNMA however called off its strike action today (Wednesday 23 September 2020) after the National Labour Commission served the association with an interluctory injunction forbidding it to pursue strike action.

In a letter, the lawyer for the GRNMA, Eric Owusu Sae, said the Ministry of Health has been scheming with the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) to disrupt the strike action by using intimidatory tactics.

“Our clients have … noted with concern, letters from Saint Dominic Hospital, Akwatia and Pentecost Hospital Madina, addressed to all categories of nurses and allied professionals on 20 September 2020, coercing them to flout the admonishing of our clients to its members to resort to an industrial action to drum home the points succinctly captured in the press release of 17 September 2020,” the letter said.

“Our clients do not only find the letter of 19 September 2020 distasteful but are fortified in their belief by the said letter that CHAG is deeply in bed with stakeholders in the health delivery service, who have purposed to subject our clients to ridicule by courting disaffection for our clients nationwide.”

Injunction on strike

The National Labour Commission (NLC) secured an injunction to restrain the nurses and their leaders from going ahead with their plans for the next ten days.

“It is hereby ordered the respondent herein by itself, its executives, officers, members, agents, servants, employees and other persons are hereby restrained from embarking on its intended strike action on Monday, 21 September 2020,” the order said.

The nurses initially played down the injunction, insisting that their plans to embark on a strike remained unchanged. The national president of the GRNMA, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, said that the association had not been served but  told reporters: “Once we are served, we will meet as an association, with our allied associations and take a decision on the way forward.”

This morning (Wednesday 23 September), the general secretary of the GRNMA, David Tenkorang-Twum, told The Assase Breakfast News that the association had received the injunction, and he hinted that members might call off their industrial action.

The GRNMA duly announced this evening that the strike would stop.

Illegal strike

The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) had also called on the nurses to relinquish their plans to strike, and return to the negotiation table.

The Commission said the government is committed to ensuring that the nurses’ complaints are resolved as quickly as possible but warned the nurses that going ahead with the strike would be illegal.

“It must be noted that the government team, in principle, agreed to six out of the eight outstanding proposals submitted by GRNMA. Both parties therefore quickly agreed to a four-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,” an FWSC statement said.

“The government team are, therefore, at a loss as to why the GRNMA decided to declare an industrial action effective 21 September 2020, contrary to our underlying agreement reached on 16 September 2020. Any attempt to embark on the strike action will be illegal.”

The GRNMA has roughly 90,000 members across Ghana, comprising nurses, midwives, physician assistants and registered anaesthetists, all working in public health facilities nationwide.

E A Alanore

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