Strike: There is power struggle in the camp of UTAG – FWSC boss reveals

The Chief Executive Officer of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), Ing Ben Arthur, has said his office is ready to dialogue with the Universities Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) on the issues that resulted in the strike.

He revealed that at the moment, power struggle and agitations within the sphere of UTAG itself is among the issues making it difficult for the employer and the union to resolve the concerns amicably.

Ing Arthur further indicated that the employer, which is the government had demonstrated good faith with UTAG because during the period that the lecturers weren’t teaching due to the covid-induced suspension of teaching and learning, they were still paid salaries and their benefits.

He therefore expressed shock at the strike by UTAG.

“When Covid was in place and nobody was going to the classroom the government kept faith with you and paid you,” he said on the Key Points on TV3/3FM Saturday January 15.

He added ” Let us engage and resolve these things peacefully. They have their own constituencies, power struggles, agitations, among themselves.”

But reacting to his comments, Dr Asare Asante Annor who is the UTAG National Secretary dismissed his assertions saying the comments by Ing Arthur were not factual.

“[Ing Arthur] is not representing the fact right. Everybody knows we were online teaching, we have even worked without taking a break.”

A Labour Consultant, Austin Garmey for his part blamed the recent labour agitations on the lack of communication from the quarters of the government.

He said that the labour law mandates the government to keep the communication channels with the unions active at all times but that appears to have failed leading to the strikes.

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“We are not implementing the laws,” he said also on the same show and added that “communication is the problem. Both the employer and the unions are not communicating.

“The employer should keep opening channel, I urge the employers to communicating.”

The National Labour Commission (NLC) had ruled that the strike by the UTAG and CETAG is illegal.

This was after a meeting with the labour unions and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations was held on Thursday January 13.

After the meeting, Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Bright Wireku Brobbey told journalists that the government is expecting that the unions to do the needful.

“In the sprit of transparency and very mutual respect for them , they have assured them that whatever allowance is due them because they were captured in the 2022 budget January they are going to be paid . Therefore the Commission has directed that they go and call off the strike immediately.

“This is something that is good for Ghana expecting that schools had just reopened , parents had just seen of their wards to the various institution. I am glad that CETAG has also be asked so let us expect that they do the needful and then we have peace.”

He added ” The National Labour Commission is a state institution. Indeed of labour institution are litigating there must be somebody to arbitrate . This is the legally mandated institution, they have heard us and they have issued their directive . It is my expectation that UTAG will also call off their striker.”

CETAG members suspended teaching service starting Thursday January 6.

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The National Council entreated all of its members to comply with this directive.

This action came on the heels of, among other things, “The failure by the government to implement the 2017-2020conditiosn of service as agreed,” a statement said.

UTAG also embarked on their action Monday January 10.

This was as a result of the failure of the government to resolve their issues.

A statement they issued on Saturday January 8 said “We must also point out the fact that, generally our members have decried the pittance agreed to be paid as annual research allowance and would want to have government to reconsider the payment of a more
realistic research allowance as this is critical to our research output, promotion and ultimately national development.h

“For the reasons stated above, the NEC of UTAG at its meeting held on 7th January 2022 reiterated its resolve to follow through with the decision to withdraw teaching and related activities until further notice with effect from Monday, 10th January 2022 and call on all UTAG members across the fifteen (15) branches to observe this directive.COMMUNIQUE-UTAG-STRIKEDownload

“As a matter of urgency, we also call on the Employer to restore members to the 2013 IMP of 114% of Basic Salary in the interim whilst Government goes ahead to formulate guidelines to implement the appropriate recommendations to address the CoS of the University Teacher. Following the uneasiness among UTAG members, any delay by the Employer would further exacerbate
the already fragile academic calendar to the detriment of all stakeholders.”

The statement further said that “It may be recalled that the Interim Market Premium (IMP) which was instituted following the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy got frozen, per a Government White Paper, in 2013, for the purpose of the conduct of a LMS to determine a MP payable to workers deserving of it. To date, this determination has not been made, which has resulted in the erosion of the University Teacher’s salary.

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“There was the hope that by completing and implementing the Labour Market Survey (LMS) Report of 2019, a review of the IMP would have put the University Teacher on a relatively good salary stead. Regrettably, the recommendations of the 2019 LMS Report without any accompanying technical report on the implementable MP is meaningless to UTAG as it does not address the pertinent issues of improved Condition of Service (CoS).

“Interestingly however, there was a LMS in 2014 whose Report did not see the light of day and one wonders if the 2019 LMS Report would ever be implemented since it is already two years old. In addition, recommendation (iii) from the 2019 LMS Report states that “Public Services Commission should liaise with educational institutions to prioritise the offering of courses in areas of demand to increase the employment prospects of their graduates and increase the pool of applicants for high vacancies.”

“How can such a National Agenda be attained if the CoS of the University Teacher keeps worsening year on year leading to an ever-increasing attrition rate on our campuses? UTAG members see the timing of the release of the report as one of the usual delay tactics that the Employer has employed over the years, which is unacceptable.”

By Laud Nartey||Ghana