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General News of Thursday, 12 October 2006

Source: GNA

President appeals to NAGRAT to call off strike

Accra, Oct. 12, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday appealed to the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) to call off its strike action and go back to the classroom. He said it was important for all to be self-restraining in their demand for better conditions of service and avoid holding the entire nation to ransom.

President Kufuor was speaking when he dropped in at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Information and National Orientation to listen to questions at a press conference on the matter.

Some key Government Ministers, including the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Minister for Public Sector Reforms, Dr. Paa Kwasi Nduom and the Information Minister and National Orientation, Mr Kwamena Bartels, were present.

President Kufuor said it was not that the Government was insensitive to the issue of poor wages and salaries but the truth of the matter was that the space of the economy, as it was now, was narrow. Out of the total revenue of about 26 trillion cedis, 14 trillion cedis, representing 53.1 per cent, is taken up by the payment of salaries and wages.

He said he had expected that his invitation for a public debate on salaries would inspire various learned institutions to take up the challenge to analyse the pay structure, take a critical look at the national revenue and come out with suggestions on the way forward. He said as the Government searched for ways and means to improve the situation and to make things better for the worker, "we must hold ourselves together and should be careful not to disrupt the effort". President Kufuor gave the assurance that the Government would neither discriminate nor cheat any worker saying, it was important for all to appreciate that it would not be in anybody's interest if the economy was brought to its knees.

He used the occasion to set the records straight on the recent salary structure for health workers that had become a reference point and the main cause of agitation among teachers, civil servants and other public sector employees and said they had not been given any new pay package.

President Kufuor said all that the Government did was a consolidation of the Additional Duty-Hours Allowance (ADHA), which was a strain on the economy.

That, he said, was based on a well-calculated advice by consultants, adding that through the consolidation, some money had been saved.

He said the country's economy would have stagnated by next year if the system as it operated had been allowed to continue. 12 Oct. 06