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General News of Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Source: myjoyonline.com

Gov't bows to UTAG, POTAG pressure

After a three-month protracted labour conflict, government has finally agreed to pay the controversial book and research allowance arrears to university and polytechnic lecturers within one month.

At an emergency meeting called by the Employment and Labour Relations Ministry last Monday, Joy News sources understand that government has promised to pay arrears for 2013/2014 academic year with the hope that it sends the lecturers back to the classroom.

The amount involved was not disclosed. But the meeting ended with renewed confidence that the country’s universities and polytechnics will in the coming days resume academic work.

It has been the government's longest labour conflict since 2009.

Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) members have been on strike since May 15, 2014 over the non-payment of their book and research allowances since 2013. Members of the University Teachers Association (UTAG) also embarked on a similar action in July, forcing many public universities to delay reopening for this academic year.

The government had earlier maintained it did not owe lecturers the allowance and also announced it was converting that condition of service into the National Research Fund to permanently address the perennial challenges associated with paying the allowance.

The lecturers could access funding for research.

But they rejected the proposal and expressed their unwillingness to negotiate with government on the newly introduced National Research Policy.

In a counter-move, government directed the Controller and Accountant General’s Department to freeze the salaries of the striking polytechnic teachers for the month of August and subsequent months if they continue with their industrial action

UTAG responded with a legal suit to compel government to pay what they believed to be their entitlements.

But in a sudden turn of events, an understanding has been secured. In what looks like a turnaround, Minister for Employment and Labour Relations Haruna Iddrisu says significant progress has been made in resolving the impasse.

No concrete decision was taken by the two unions who want to first consult their members before accepting an offer.

The meeting was attended by Education Minister Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, her deputy responsible for tertiary education Samuel Okudjeto as well as the Chief Executive of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission George Smith-Graham.

They failed to discuss the reported freeze of salaries of polytechnic teachers. Joy News understands discussions on the matter were shelved pending a final resolution of the impasse.

The parties are due to meet later today to finalize the discussions.

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