The national executive of the Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA) has decided to consult its members to seek their approval over pleas that their one-month strike over market premium should be called off.
“Principally, there is a drift towards calling off the strike, but we want to firm it up by consulting our constituents. Some people have called us and appealed to us. In all fairness, we have been advised that we call off the strike so that engagement can continue for public good,” Mr Agyeman Badu, the National Chairman of the association, told the Daily Graphic at the end of the meeting.
Going forward, he said, it was the expectation of the leadership that “if the constituents decide that we call it off, we will look for other avenues of engagement to still drum home our issues. We are also minded to explore the legal avenue to address issues. We have a lot of options to exercise and when it becomes necessary, we will do that”.
He warned that the association would also adopt picketing at the Flagstaff House, the Ministry of Health and the Controller and Accountant-General if the authorities failed to heed to its demands.
GHOSPA started its indefinite strike on September 5 this year to push for changes to its market premium. It was forced to resort to the strike after the breakdown of negotiations with the government, spanning six years, over its grade structure and placement in public health facilities.
The GHOSPA strike has resulted in the shut down of pharmacies in public hospitals across the country.
Market premium is monetary incentive paid to attract and retain critical skills in short supply within the economy. The premium is to bring the salaries of skills in short supply to be close or equal to the actual market value of such skills. The rationale is to enable the public services to compete favourably for such skill with the private sector in the labour market.
According to GHOSPA, while the total number of pharmacists in Ghana was about 3,000, its members were pegged at 623.
The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) is responsible for undertaking regular market surveys to determine the continued validity of skills shortage in the economy. This will help review regularly market premium payment. The commission will also undertake reviews to determine the continued need for inducement/incentive for specific areas of the country.
However, disagreements between the FWSC and the association over the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), which the pharmacists claim has made them worse off, has created a deadlock between the two parties since October 2011.
The association is aggrieved by discrepancies in its interim market premium, claiming that the FWSC placed pharmacists working in university hospitals on a premium of 114 per cent, while those working in the Ghana Health Service/teaching hospitals are on a premium of 58 per cent.
But with the delay in the implementation of the recommendations, the pharmacists embarked on several strikes in 2012 and 2013 to drum home their demand for fairness’
The government then set up a Cabinet Sub-Committee to look into the grievances of the association.
The report of the committee, quoted in a document titled: “Road map for Implementation of Recommendations on GHOSPA” and signed by the then Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Bani, said “GHOSPA had not been treated fairly. This is because their colleagues with the universities or the Food and Drugs Board are given 114 per cent (market premium), while GHOSPA receives between 58-75 per cent, so it was recommended that GHOSPA’s market premium be adjusted.”
The document also provided payment plans of two scenarios starting from June 2014 for the payment of GH¢9,453,791.80 in arrears to the pharmacists.