The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has declared that it will no longer enter into verbal agreements with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) as striking doctors press home their demands.
Monday, GMA General Secretary Frank Serebour indicated on Joy FM’s Top Story that the Association has lost faith in the Commission because the latter had on several occasions failed to honour its commitments to doctors.
The Ghana Medical Association withdrew outpatient services starting Monday as it embarks on a nationwide strike over salary distortions concerning the conversion differences and market premiums.
Cornelius Yawson, Head of Grievances, Negotiations and Collective Bargaining at the Fair Wages and Salary Commission, had earlier stated that the Commission was ready to abide by a National Labour Commission (NLC) ruling ordering it to pay doctors what is due them.
He said the NLC last Wednesday directed the FWSC to pay the doctors the same market premium as was paid in 2010 and 2011.
“We have no problem at all with this ruling; we are going to enforce it,” Cornelius Yawson said.
He announced that the Commission would write to the Finance Ministry before the 15th of this month in the hopes that the striking doctors’ demands will be met by the end of February.
But Dr Serebour thinks it is important that every agreement be put on paper.
“If it is on paper, we will be happy to really [rescind our decision] so they should put everything on paper and sign because these days oral tradition is not something that we go by.”
Dr Serebour explained that last week’s ruling was to “reinforce NLC’s awards way back in November 2011, [which the Commission had not abided by] so this ruling is not a new ruling.”
Expiating on the difference between market premiums and conversion differences, he averred, “you cannot use market premium as a conversion difference anywhere…conversion difference is paid to anybody whose basic salary is lower on SSSS compared to his previous salary… market premium is paid in lieu of profession whose job is in scarcity. So that is totally different.”
Mr Yawson explained that the deduction being taken from doctors’ SSNIT contributions made them “worse off” in terms of their basic salaries after they were migrated onto the SSSS. He said, therefore, “it was decided among all of us that instead of giving them the conversion difference we will give them an interim market premium, this is in lieu of convention difference.”
However, he added that, “at one point, the doctors were saying that give us also, in addition to the market premium, give us the conversion difference, and we thought that would be double payment.”
Meanwhile, reports across the country indicate that the strike is taking a toll on many patients, especially those on the National Health Insurance Scheme who cannot afford the services of private facilities.