General News of Monday, 18 March 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Gov’t appeal to teachers to rescind decision on strike

The government has appealed to teachers in first and second-cycle schools to rescind their decision to embark on strike Monday.

Rather, it advised them to go back to the negotiation table to resolve any issues with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).

An official statement issued after a meeting between government representatives and the leadership of teacher unions in Accra Sunday said: "Government is appealing to all educational sector workers, including teachers and non-teaching staff, to exercise restraint, while every effort is being made to address the concerns raised by the unions.”

The statement, signed by the Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Mahama Ayariga, gave an assurance that the government would address teachers’ grievances to ensure a congenial atmosphere for students to write their May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The appeal to teachers to rescind their decision followed the crucial meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Douglas Kwesi Bani, between the government and the leadership of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA) at the Flagstaff House yesterday.

In attendance were the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper; the Minister for Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang; the Minister for Employment & Labour Relations, Nii Armah Ashietey; Mr Ayariga and the Chief Executive Officer of the FWSC, Mr George Smith-Graham.

There was no representation from the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) at the meeting due to the short notice.

However, when contacted on the government's appeal, the leaders of NAGRAT and GNAT said even though they welcomed the appeal, they were unable to respond immediately.

The President of NAGRAT, Mr Christian Addai-Poku, and the Head of Salary, Terms and Conditions of Service of GNAT, Mr B.K. Osei, told the Daily Graphic in separate interviews that the leadership would go back and do further consultations with their members.

They, however, indicated that they could not prevail on their members to suspend the strike, since they did not have anything on paper to convince the teachers that their grievances had been addressed.

At a joint press conference in Accra on Friday, March 15, 2013, both GNAT and NAGRAT raised issues relating to their conditions of service.

Among their grievances were the non-negotiation of new proposals for the collective bargaining agreement for teaching employees of the Ghana Education Service (GES), a freeze on annual increments for the staff of the GES since 2010, the non-payment of vehicle maintenance allowance from 2012 to date to GES staff who qualify and delays in resolving outstanding issues related to promotions.

Mr Addai-Poku said what the government needed to do was impress on the National Labour Commission (NLC) and the FWSC to expedite action to resolve the issues raised by the association.

For his part, Mr Osei wondered why teachers were not given invigilation and supervision fees when the management of the GES had indicated that invigilation and supervision were not compulsory.

Additionally, he said, it was strange that other categories of workers had been paid their car maintenance allowance, while GNAT members had not received theirs.

On why GNAT decided to go on strike when students were preparing for the WASSCE, Mr Osei said it was important to deal with the legal issue, which has to do with teachers’ welfare, first before dwelling on the moral issue.

He indicated that teachers could not be wrong for using the period as a bargaining chip.

However, the government’s statement said it had received every assurance from the GES and WAEC that every arrangement pertaining to the conduct of the 2013 WASSCE "is on course".

It, therefore, asked students, parents and schools to focus on their preparation for the examination.

According to the statement, following the government’s appeal and discussions, the meeting agreed that GNAT would engage in further consultations with its partners and get back to the government.

It said the Chief Director at the Ministry of Finance, the two deputy directors-general of the GES, and two deputies of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department provided relevant briefing.