Developments On The Labour Front and The National Economy
Recent happenings on the industrial front makes one shudder as to whither the country is drifting in its development agenda. Let us look at a scenario where some people have declared that the sitting President is illegitimate and therefore will not do anything to fester his Presidency, yet when that same President orders the payment of ex-gratia, they collect it with glee. There is another case where the ruling party is regularly accused of dissipating state revenue to the bones, yet when the same administration doles out laptop computers, the same people collect them with the best of praise.
Teachers go on strike for non-payment of Single Spine premiums. Some of them are alleged to have converted their vehicles to taxis yet expect to be given maintenance allowances on them. Striking medical doctors in government hospitals leave patients to their fate yet go on private practice to earn a living. Government Hospital Pharmacists have withdrawn their services but are ready to be paid at the end of the month. The Workers of the Judicial Service go on strike with the over all objective of grinding the dispensation of justice to a halt quite against the ethics of their profession, and we have people arguing they see nothing wrong with that. The list is endless but suffice it to say that the strike phenomenon is becoming one too many. If the intention of all these industrial boycotts are meant to grind the national economy to a halt then we may be doing the country a great disservice in the long run.
The Minister of Finance, Seth Tekper in a candid opinion did indicate that if labour unions remain entrenched in their demands for lump sum payments over alleged Single Spine infractions there will be dire consequences for the economy. According to the Minister, government could not immediately pay outstanding public sector allowances without borrowing, as this will affect interest rates. What is worrying in all these developments is the stone silence of the Ghana Trades Union Congress, an umbrella workers organisation, leading opposition parties and the clergy. Many Ghanaians expect the opposition NPP to offer an alternative in the on-going brouhaha over Single Spine demands. The opposition NPP should not think it cannot find itself in the situation that the NDC government currently finds itself. We need not cut our nose to spite our face.
It is disturbing the National Labour Commission is being seen as a toothless bull dog in the whole matter, because its directives are not being adhered to. We must admit government committed a blunder in paying Article 71 office holders the whooping ex-gratia when negotiations with striking workers were on-going. But two wrongs they say do not make a right. In the foregoing debate, let no profession think high of itself because its members perform essential services. Every job is important for the national economy. It is good former Member of Parliament, Maxwell Kofi Jumah had to eat the humble pie for asking teachers not to compare themselves to Members of Parliament. We need to take another look at the wage rationalisation policy. As legendary musician, Bob Marley once sang," until the philosophy which makes one race inferior and another superior is abolished, there will not be peace." We need peace on the labour front to prosecute the national development agenda. It is a general belief development partners and investors have taken a cautious stance over the current electoral challenge before the Supreme Court. Let us not worsen matters by taking the nation further down the abyss.
Striking workers must accept the offer by Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to pay their outstanding allowances in instalments. The intransigent stance taken by doctors and university teachers will not help matters. Life is like an egg, once it falls it can never be retrieved. We need to have a win-win situation for all parties at the negotiating table. It will be unconscionable to lose a single life because of the doctors strike which has been described as illegal by the National Labour Commission.
The National labour Commission should go to the court to get its decision enforced to the letter. Efforts by government to mitigate the strike by medical doctors is so far commendable. NHIS card holders in the current situation have no option than to look out for the list of private clinics that accept National Health Insurance Cards to access their services. Government must stand its grounds and not yield to the whims and caprices of any individual organisation else it opens the floodgates for more agitations. Strikes should be the last resort to seek redress once precious lives are concerned. The Ghana Medical Assocaition and other labour groups insisting on their pound of flesh before backing down on their demands must rethink their action for enough is enough.
BY JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST