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Gov’t Pledges To Immediately Resolve POTAG Grievances   
 
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20-Mar-2012  
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Minister of Employment and Social Welfare , Moses Asaga
 
 
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The Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare has assured Polytechnic students and the general public that government is taking concrete steps to resolve the grievances of the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) across the country.

Polytechnic teachers recently declared a nationwide strike action on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 over the reduction in their salaries for the month of February and also demand their migration onto the Single Spine Salary Structure.


FULL STATEMENT ON THE MIGRATION OF POLYTECHNIC TEACHERS ONTO THE SINGLE SPINE SALARY STRUCTURE

The Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare wishes to inform members of the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), students of Polytechnic institutions and the general public, about the concrete steps that have been taken to resolve the grievances of polytechnic teachers in the country.

It would be recalled that following the Polytechnic Teachers’ strike action of 2010, the National Labour Commission (NLC) appointed a mediator to mediate the impasse between them and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).

At the end of the Mediation an agreement was reached on 20th December, 2010 to the effect that the existing gap in remuneration levels within analogous institutions with similar job criteria and schemes of service should be bridged in order to bring fairness and equity in salary administration in the country.

In line with this, a grading structure was agreed with POTAG which has removed any disparity in salary levels between University Teachers and Polytechnic Teachers.

It is important to stress that currently there is no gap in salary levels between the Polytechnic Teacher and the University Teacher.

As part of the process of migrating public service employees onto the SSSS, a consultant, CoEn Consulting, was contracted to undertake job evaluation for the various classes of employees. POTAG, like many other public sector unions and associations disagreed with the grade structure submitted by CoEn Consulting and therefore requested for job re-evaluation, which was duly carried out.

Mindful of the mediation agreement of 20th December, 2010, and cognizant of the need to maintain the integrity of the Polytechnics in terms of its ability to attract the needed skills to achieve its mandate, and to prevent seepage of teachers to the Universities, the FWSC finally gave to the polytechnics a grading structure which is basically the same as that agreed with the University Teachers.
It therefore means that technically the FWSC has totally eliminated any perceived or real inequities that existed between Polytechnics in the grades of Teachers and University Teachers. It has put Polytechnics and Universities at par.


ISSUE OF MARKET PREMIUM

The current impasse however centers on disagreement on applicable market premium factor for Polytechnic Teachers.

A “Market Premium” is defined by the Government White Paper on the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) released in 2009 as “monetary incentive paid to attract and retain critical skills in short supply within the economy. The premium is to bring the salaries of skills in short supply to be close or equal to the actual market value of such skills. The rationale is to enable the public services compete favourably for such skills with the private sector”.

The current arrangement with the Polytechnics, just as with the health sector employees and the Universities is an interim measure to ensure that these classes of public service employees are not made worse off after their migration onto the SSSS. This is in accordance with the principle underlining the Single Spine Pay Policy not to make any group worse off after migration onto the Single Spine Salary Structure.

It must be noted that Market Premium and indeed job grading, classification and salary structuring is not a matter for negotiations. It is a management function and prerogative. It is however good practice to involve stakeholders in their determination and it is in this spirit that the Polytechnic teachers, like the others before them, have been engaged to arrive at an applicable market premium factor.


MARKET PREMIUM FOR THE POLYTECHNIC TEACHERS

Prior to the discussions towards migration of the Polytechnic Teachers onto the SSSS, the difference in salary between the Polytechnic Teacher and the University Teacher was about 55%. This situation, as observed during the mediation, was not good enough. The 55% gap was a vast deviation from the 20% gap that had always existed between the Polytechnic and Universities.

Polytechnics and Universities have different mandates and indeed their work is different; they are not the same in the scheme of things. Indeed the Statutes/Charters that establish the two institutions are clear on this matter.
Moreover the National Council for Tertiary Education, the regulatory body for tertiary institutions, also has clear guidelines on these matters as to which institutions are analogous to which institutions based on the Charter creating the institution.

During the discussions on the applicable Market Premium for Polytechnic Teachers, the FWSC with the mediation agreement in mind, offered POTAG a Market Premium factor of 0.8 (80%) from its initial offer of factor 0.6 (60%).
POTAG however rejected the premium factor of 0.8 and tabled a premium factor of 1.25 (125%). The FWSC’s offer of a factor of 0.8 was to move the gap in total compensation between the University Teachers and Polytechnic Teachers from the existing 55% to 15%. As has been mentioned the aim of the FWSC was to use the SSSS to reduce the gap.


INTERVENTION BY MINISTRY OF FINANCE

Following requests by the Rectors of the Polytechnics and at a meeting between the Rectors of the Polytechnic and the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon. Dr. Kwabena Dufour in the presence of the Chief Executive of FWSC, Mr. George Smith Graham, and the Director, Real Sector of the MOFEP, Dr. Alhassan Iddrisu, the Rectors pleaded with the Minister to increase the premium factor to help further reduce the gap. The Hon. Minister therefore agreed and requested that FWSC adjust the premium factor from 0.8 to 0.9.

This was to further reduce the gap to 11.2%. The premium factor of 0.9 which has been offered as the final figure in the view of FWSC is fair and just. POTAG however insists on being paid a premium factor of 1.14, the same as pertain to the universities.
The FWSC believes that accepting this demand from POTAG will defeat the object of fairness and equity envisaged under the policy. The Policy is however not inflexible and would take care of any group which is made worse off as a result of the implementation of the policy in accordance with the principle not to make any group worse off upon migration.


ANALOGOUS INSTITUTIONS AND SERVICE CLASSIFICATIONS

It must be mentioned also that there is a difference between analogous institutions and service classifications. The fact of one being in the same service classification with another does not mean that the individual institutions therein should have the same grading structure or indeed market premium as the POTAG seems to imply at the discussions for the Market Premium.

The FWSC discussed Market Premium with the Universities to arrive at their current rates of Market Premium. Similarly, the FWSC will discuss the Market Premium rates for all the institutions who are analogous with the Polytechnics or which are within the service classification, if eligible, without ascribing the rates arrived at with other institutions but will do so based on the objective situation of each institution.
Just as diploma awarding training colleges cannot claim the same grading structure or market premium factor with the Polytechnics, the Polytechnics cannot likewise claim same with the Universities for, they have different responsibilities and different research demands.


FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

These substantial increments were acceded to by the FWSC in its quest to implement the mediation agreement of 2010 and to show its good faith in that endeavour.
It is also out of a belief that the Polytechnics need to be brought to a certain threshold to enable them achieve their mandate of producing a critical middle cadre of manpower for national development. No single group has had this monumental adjustment since the implementation of the SSSS.

ALLEGED DELAY BY THE FWSC IN MIGRATING POLYTECHNIC TEACHERS

One last issue that needs to be addressed is the alleged delay by the FWSC in migrating Polytechnic Teachers and the supposed patience exhibited so far by Polytechnic Teachers in that direction. The fact of the matter is that Polytechnic Teachers had an understanding with the FWSC to wait until University Teachers were migrated.
It is therefore incorrect to give the impression of an intentional delay or indeed discrimination towards Polytechnic Teachers for that matter. Besides, at the end of the Market Premium discussions, FWSC offered to immediately proceed to migrate POTAG unto the SSSS, but POTAG objected to this.


CONCLUSION

The public sector comprises many groups all of who demand some form of entitlement or the other. It must not seem to be saying that groups should be given whatever they demand no matter how unjustifiable or unfounded these demands are and no matter its effect on the wage bill.
It must be stated that whatever is given to any group of public service workers has a rippling effect on discussions with other groups and sets off its own snowballing effects on agitations in the larger public sector which is always difficult to handle.

This is true even for groups who have already been migrated. They sooner file a grievance using what has been done for others that they see as analogous to them as basis for a charge of unfair treatment or even bad faith in their own migration.
The ministry believes that the FWSC has done its very best for polytechnic teachers and has shown much good faith. For, the mediation agreement of 20th December 2010 did not envisage equality. It only envisaged a bridging of the gap which FWSC, in all good faith, has done.

It is not as if to say that any group must, by all means, have what they want, least of all by pressure tactics and scant regard for the rules of the land. That would be a sure way to derail the whole SSSS policy.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare has taken the trouble to give a background to the impasse so that students of Polytechnics and parents and guardians of these students and the general public can judge the issues for themselves

In line with this, the Ministry fully supports the recommendation by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning that no salaries would be paid to POTAG lecturers for the number of days they remain on strike


Hon. Moses Asaga (MP)
Minister of Employment and Social Welfare

 
 
Source: Peacefmonline.com
 
 

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