Executive Secretary of the National Labour Commission (NLC), Ofosu Asamoah, has revealed that his outfit is committed to ensuring a resolution to the concerns and demands raised by the Ghana Physician Association members who are striking.
According to him, the Commission is set to meet the association later today, August 2, 2023, to listen to their concerns and find appropriate solutions to them. He stated that due to the critical position they occupy in the health space, there is the need to address their issues swiftly.
“We as mediators are going to ensure that we arrive at a settlement through negotiations… If the party is entrenched in their position, then the matter may not be solved. Since they are essential service providers, then we may have, in the worse scenario, resort to a compulsory arbitration.”Ofosu Asamoah
Mr Asamoah indicated that prior to the commencement of strike by the physician assistants, the NLC engaged the association. He noted that when the Commission got notice of the party’s intended strike and reasons for which it wanted to go on an industrial action to drum home demands, his outfit equally wrote to their employers on the situation to figure out ways to avert the occurrence of the industrial action.
“… Of course, they will know some steps have been taken and some meetings have gone on, except that they’ve been unable to settle. That is why they’ve gone this bad and when it gets to this stage, the Commission would have to seize it, take over and settle it and that is what we are beginning from today.”Ofosu Asamoah
Commenting on some demands the association has been making aside from the amendment of Act 857, Mr Asamoah stated that apart from amending the act, the association has also called for its own regulatory body. Additionally, he noted that the association also want to be separated from the medical and dental council and have its own council for the regulation of physician assistants.
“Yesterday, we received a letter from the graduate division of the association requesting for a joinder. So, we have accordingly granted and invited them as well. So, we are not too certain on all the issues because they keep adding up. Today, if they appear before the Commission and make their presentation alongside what has been written to us, then we can be certain of all the issues.
“But at least, we know that they are calling for a council of their own, they are calling for certain amendments to the act and the exclusion of some introduction to the act by the medical and dental council.”Ofosu Asamoah
Resolving issues of strike in the country
Furthermore, Mr Asamoah highlighted that prior to meeting the association, the Commission had not reached out to the dental council. He revealed that by way of reaching out, the NLC has extended the copy of the issues raised by the physician assistants to them.
“… But we haven’t called for any meeting. You know, we don’t invite the parties individually, we put them together and that will be in the afternoon.”Ofosu Asamoah
Elaborating on the fact that this is not the first time the physician assistants is embarking on a strike, the NLC executive secretary stated that there have been several strikes for different reasons. Describing the situation as unfortunate, Mr Asamoah emphasized that strikes should sparingly be used and must be the tool of last resort.
“Unfortunately, we have the reverse in Ghana. Now, people will not negotiate, avail themselves to mediation and would always want to threaten strike and it’s an unfortunate situation. But we are trying to handle it through education. I think our union members, management, employers and government – all the parties will need some form of education to come to know that they don’t really settle issues through strike.
“If they know that they can only get their demand through strike, perhaps, our employers have also waited to respond to issues when there’s strike – that is also what is happening on the other side.”Ofosu Asamoah
In most cases, Mr Asamoah explained that employers will not budge at the demands of workers and are usually not ready to negotiate. Owing to this, he noted that workers invariably resort to strike.
“So, for us, that is what is happening, so we have to bring all the parties together and educate ourselves, and come to accept we have a duty to perform, we deliver on our mandate and not wait for a strike…”Ofosu Asamoah