Health sector workers will from December 27 join other labour unions to embark on an indefinite strike to press home their demand for the exemption of pension funds from the domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DEP).
The workers include the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA), Health Services Workers’ Union (HSWU) and Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA).
This was contained in a statement issued in Accra on December 21.
It was signed by the President of GMA, Dr Frank Serebour; President of GRNMA, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo; General Secretary of HSWU, Franklin Owusu Andah and Nathan Coompson, Chairman of GHOSPA.
According to the statement, the strike action would commence with the withdrawal of all Out-Patient services on December 27.
It said the workers would withdraw emergency services and later all services on January 2 and 9 respectively.
The statement explained that the action had become necessary following the announcement by the Minister of Finance which prompted the Organised Labour to declare a strike.
Organised Labour, on December 19, declared an indefinite strike from December 27 to drum home its demand for the government to exempt pension funds from the DEP.
The industrial action followed a one-week ultimatum given by organised labour for the government to rescind its decision to include pension funds in the DEP, else workers “will advise themselves.”
Announcing the strike in Accra, the Secretary General of the TUC, Dr Yaw Baah, said the government had failed to heed the demands of organised labour.
The demands, he said, were communicated to the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, on December 12, this year.
“The government has refused to grant us our request that all pension funds be exempted from the DEP. We have decided firmly that all workers of Ghana are going on strike on December 27.
We will be on strike until our demand that all pension funds be exempted from the DEP is granted,” he said.
Dr Baah said organised labour would not compromise on its stance to protect the pensions of workers, and that the government had the opportunity until December 27 to correct its decision.
“We are not sitting down for our pension funds to be toyed with for the most vulnerable to suffer because somebody has made mistakes,” he added.
Workers from various labour unions, clad in red attire and wearing red armbands, received the announcement of the strike with chants and shouts of ‘No haircuts on our pensions’, ‘We will never accept haircut’ and ‘We will roll over haircuts’.
The Minister of Finance announced that the government would implement a voluntary DEP as part of measures to reduce the debt burden and give the government some breathing space to deal with the fiscal challenges facing the country.
With the DEP, domestic bondholders face steep interest rate cuts and the lengthening of tenure on their investments.
Investors in dollar-denominated Eurobonds will also have to contend with both interest rate cuts and the loss of up to 30 per cent of the principal amounts invested.
In addition, domestic debt investors will be asked to exchange their existing securities for new ones that may offer a zero coupon in the first year, five per cent in the second and 10 per cent in the third year.
Holders of short-term debt securities, comprising Treasury bills of 91 days, 182 days and 364 days, will be excluded from the DEP.
Figures from the Central Securities Depository show that pension funds hold six per cent of the government’s domestic debt.
BY TIMES REPORTER