NHIS in turmoil

By Bismark Bebli

Sylvester Mensah, CEO of NHIA (left), Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of TUC (right)

THE unionised workers of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) are demanding the head of the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sylvester Mensah, for allegedly trying to muzzle the workers, by dismissing those who criticise his administration.

To this end, the angry unionised workers have made a direct call on the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) to take steps to push for the immediate dismissal of the CEO.

Declaring their intentions after an emergency meeting in Accra on Saturday, the workers noted that effective tomorrow, Tuesday December 13, 2010, they would start hoisting red flags and wearing red-armed bands, ahead of a major nationwide strike, which they indicated, “could last for months.”

The workers claimed that they had been outraged by the December 6, 2010 dismissal of one of their local chairmen, Kwabena Bobie, over comments he allegedly made in a recent interview on Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station.

Mr. Bobie’s comments, which were about the problems facing the administration of the union, came after a meeting of the Union of Industry, Commerce and Finance Workers, which is the parent union of the unionised NHIS workers, on November 13, 2010.

He was said to have spoken seriously about recent National Democratic Congress (NDC) footsoldier agitations, which had led to the closure of some NHIA offices, as well as some cash flow problems facing the scheme.

Although officials of the NHIA are on record to have confirmed some of the things Mr. Bobie alluded to in his Joy FM interview, Mr. Sylvester Mensah terminated the local union Secretary’s appointment.

A source within the workers front told this paper that “the termination of Mr. Bobie’s appointment was on suspicion that he was an NPP agent, who was doing the bidding of the largest opposition party.”

At the meeting, the delegates resolved to lay down their tools indefinitely, if the dismissed officer was not reinstated before December 20, 2010.

“The workers of the National Health Insurance Authority and its schemes will embark on a strike action seven days from Monday 13th December, 2010, until the termination is reversed,” said a resolution released by the UNICOF, after Saturday’s emergency meeting of local union heads across the country.

Accusing the NHIA Chief of creating industrial unrest, the resolution made a direct appeal to the TUC to put pressure on the appropriate authorities, to have Mr. Mensah removed as head of the Health Insurance Authority, which has been struggling under the weight of financial difficulties.

“The Ghana Trades Union Congress, which represents workers on the Board of the NHIA, should make representations on the Board of the NHIA to remove the Chief Executive Officer, for acting in a manner that has caused industrial unrest at the NHIA, and brought the image of the NHIA into disrepute,” the three-paged resolution added.

Mr. Francis Kofi Davor, General Secretary of UNICOF, later told Citi FM, an Accra-based radio station, that the termination of the appointment of the Secretary of the local union by management was unfair, and against the law.

“The case is that management has unfairly terminated the appointment of the Secretary of the local union, and we think that it is an action that management should not have taken,” he noted, adding, “It is against the law, and management should have known better.”

The UNICOF boss quoted section 63(2)(b) of the National labour Law, Act 651 to back his position. “We think that management has acted rather irresponsibly in this case,” he added, saying: “It is the view of members that the NHIA management’s action shows arrogance and disrespect for the union, and is aimed at scuttling the union’s efforts at the NHIA, and its schemes.”

“We are going to serve notice to the appropriate authorities, the National Labour Commission and management itself, that after seven days, we are going to lay down our tools until management terminates the appointment of Mr. Sylvester Mensah, because he has brought the name of this scheme into disrepute,” Mr. Davor said.

The NHIA has been in the news lately, following sustained media reports of cash flow problems that could collapse the various schemes under the Authority.

Mr. Eric Quarmyne-Ametor, deputy Communications Director of the NHIA, could not speak on the matter, but said the outfit was aware of what happened, but would respond to them appropriately, after they had laid hands on the communiqué

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