Members of Mortuary Workers Association of Ghana (MOWAG) across the country have embarked on indefinite strike for the second time this year, to push for increment in salaries and better conditions of service as some bereaved families have been stranded at the Komfo Anokye Teaching hospital (KATH) morgue and other morgues of some government hospitals in the Ashanti Region.
They have accused the government of reneging on its promise of improving their working conditions, which include poor salaries, lack of personal protective equipment and poor working environment.
Some of the stranded families who spoke to OTECNEWS’ Emmanuel Asiamah at the KATH morgue Wednesday, May 29, 2019 said they were told about the strike after they had gone through the necessary processes and documentation for the release of the remains of their late relatives.
Red bands hanged at the
main entrance of the morgue as well as on hearses, ambulances and trucks used
in conveying corpse from the wards.
Some relatives who had come for their corpses were served by an emergency team put in place by management of the hospital.
The hospital is however not taking in fresh corpse from outside the facility.
Ashanti Regional Chairman
of MOWAG, Ebenezer Asirifi told OTECNEWS
that they will only resume work when the Ministry of Health meets their demands.
In March, members of the Association embarked on a sit-down strike on the same issue, but an intervention by the Ministry of Health and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission caused them to suspend the action.
Two months on, the Association said government has failed to fulfill its part of the agreement, hence the decision to lay down their tools.
Mr. Asirifi said mortuary workers are the lowest paid on the Health Workers Pay Structure.
“Our salary is very low. When you see the salary structure which came out this year, we are very down. The highest paid is 600,” Mr Asirifi revealed, noting some of them are paid as low as 150 cedis per month.
He said their job is a high-risk one considering that they daily have to deal with bodies contagious diseases such as hepatitis B and tuberculosis as well as HIV/AIDs, which he said “can contaminate” them.
Mr Asirifi said the situation is even serious because most of them have had to handle these bodies without any form of protection whatsoever.
“Lack of protection; shoes, gloves and others. When you go the mortuary they don’t even have gloves and boots,” he stated.
He said they have since suspended the strike in March been trying to “negotiate” with the Ministry of Health and the FWSC but “everyday, they toss you; do this, come this, so many things. That’s why we have put our tools down”.
“This time we are not going to call off the strike until everything is done and it is written, apart from that we won’t call the strike off,” Mr Asiri insisted.
A letter signed by the group’s General Secretary, Mr Richard Kofi Jordan, said the workers will not succumb to any form of coercion once they have begun the strike until their demands are met without condition.
Their concerns include the lack of maintenance of mortuary facilities, denial of their mandated annual leave, failure to review their remuneration, and the lack of protective clothing, among others.
The group had earlier announced a similar nationwide strike scheduled for Thursday, 2 May 2019 but later rescinded its decision upon the intervention by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).