Doctors in the country have been on strike for about 15 days
A human rights lawyer, Tuinese Edward Amuzu, has filed a writ at an Accra High Court seeking a declaration that the strike embarked upon by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) is illegal.
The plaintiff is also seeking an order from the court directed at the GMA to call off its strike and a perpetual injunction to restrain doctors from ever embarking on a strike or a partial withdrawal of services.
The writ, dated April 18, 2013, was issued on behalf of the plaintiff by Ayine & Felli Law Offices in Accra.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiff said one of the philosophies of the GMA was that “health is a right and must be made accessible, equitable, affordable, appropriate and safe at all times to all the people in Ghana”.
It said on April 8, 2013, the GMA publicly announced its decision to embark on a strike involving the partial withdrawal of medical services in public health facilities in the country.
Prior to that decision, it said, the GMA had engaged at different levels of interaction with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC)), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) and the National Labour Commission (NLC) to deliberate on its concerns regarding, inter alia, arrangements for the payment of the market premium of its members.
In the deliberation process, it said, the GMA, the FWSC and MoFEP were unable to agree on arrangements for the said payments to the members of the GMA serving in the public sector.
It said the NLC award directed MoFEP, the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) and the FWSC to strictly adhere to the payment schedule.
“The plaintiff will contend that the NLC award is binding on the parties and that if any party thereto is dissatisfied with the decision, the party so dissatisfied may appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the NLC,” the statement said.
“The plaintiff further contends that as essential service providers, members of the defendant association cannot lawfully withdraw any part of their services in total disregard of the labour laws of the land, and in particular Section 163 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651),” it added.
According to the statement, the GMA, together with all of its members working in the public sector, had a duty to obey the laws of Ghana, adding that the action of the association and/or some of its members in embarking on a strike was an affront to the rule of law.
“The plaintiff says the said strike or partial withdrawal of services constitutes a serious threat to Ghanaians including the plaintiff,” it said.
A statement of case accompanying the writ quoted Section 163 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) as stating, inter alia, that a worker engaged in an essential service shall not resort to a lockout or strike in connection with or in furtherance of any industrial dispute involving the workers in the essential service.
It said Section 175 of Act 652 defines “essential services” to include areas in an establishment where an action could result in a particular or total loss of life or pose a danger to public health and safety and such other services as the minister may by instrument determine.
“Because the respondent falls within the essential service category and its members are prohibited by law from embarking on strikes, the applicant, pursuant to Article 42(b) of the Constitution, is entitled to defend Section 163 of Act 651 by bringing an action for the enforcement of the said Section 163 of Act 651,” it said.
The statement said since every Ghanaian was entitled to access health services within the terms of the law, by embarking upon a strike or the partial withdrawal of services, the GMA had denied or curtailed the right of Ghanaians, including Mr Amuzu, to access fully medical services in public health institutions.
“This unlawful restriction or curtailment of access to health services constitutes a serious threat to the health of many Ghanaians, including the applicant. Therefore, the respondent’s strike violates the right of the applicant to access health services in public health institutions,” it said.
Credit : Daily Graphic