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Labour Commission Holds Crisis Talks With NHIA Union   
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The National Labour Commission has directed unionized staff of the National Health Insurance Authority to return to work as their strike is illegal.

The commission’s directive is to ensure that the union and management complete ongoing negotiations and report back to it by March 4, 2012.

Demands being made by the workers include agreeing on a Collective Bargaining Agreement and a salary structure. Workers of some of the schemes across the country declared a sit-down strike last Monday demanding improved conditions of service.

But management of the authority went to the Labour Commission seeking reliefs including declaration of the strike as illegal, the return of the workers to the negotiating table and the declaration of the strike as an unfair labour practice.

Workers of some of the schemes in parts of the Western, Eastern, Upper West and Ashanti regions declared the strike on Monday, to protest poor conditions of service. Reports indicate that some workers of the NHIA in the other regions continue to work because of a last-minute directive they received from their national executive members on Friday to hold on with the strike.

Speaking to the DAILY GRAPHIC, Mr Nathaniel Otoo, the Director of Administration and Legal of NHIA, said the country cherished the rule of law and the decision of the Labour Commission attested to that.

He said labour negotiations were not done in the media but rather across the table, saying the union had engaged in arms twisting. He said the handling of issues concerning collective bargaining was the responsibility of both management and the union and that the attempt by the union to stifle the process was unfair.

He said the commission was committed to completing the negotiations but stated that the negotiations were a two-way affair that needed commitment from the union as well. “The strike is absolutely illegal and not in line with the country’s labour laws. That is why we deemed it necessary to report the matter to the Labour Commission.

“The most important thing to do is go back to the negotiating table, since the use of strike as a threat to the process is not acceptable,” he said.

Mr Otoo said management would from today “monitor the activities of the various schemes to ensure that they adhere to the ruling of the commission. If they fail, then they will be in contempt of the Labour Commission which also have the powers of the High Court.”

He explained that in union negotiations of that nature, the demands of the labour law were that management should deal with the mother union which held the collective bargaining certificate, and in the case of the NHIA workers union, it is the Union of Industry,
Commerce and Finance workers (UNICOF) that should be dealt with.

He said a letter which was to inform management of the workers’ strike was not delivered to management. Mr Otoo stated that even though UNICOF had not sanctioned the strike, the NHIA engaged the leadership of the local union together with its mother union to settle the matter amicably.

He said the union even gave an assurance that it would not declare the strike but the assurance was betrayed, a situation that compelled management of the Health Insurance Schemes to go to the Labour Commission.

But speaking to Joy FM, the General Secretary of the Union, Mr Kwabena Bobbie, said the strike had achieved it purpose as it had forced management to heed to their demands for negotiations. He was optimistic that both parties would meet the needed requirements of the Labour Commission by March 14, 2012.
Source: Daily Graphic

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