The Education Ministry has scoffed at the indefinite strike declared by the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) as it withdraws its olive branch to the lecturers.
Deputy Education Minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa suggested on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Friday that UTAG’s position is a show of bad faith, as he announced government’s resolve not to entertain their position.
The strike was to press home their demand for the reinstatement of the scrapped book and research allowances which is being replaced by the National Research Fund.
Their colleagues, Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), are already on strike over the same issue. At a press conference to announce the strike Thursday, the president of UTAG Dr. Samuel Ofori-Bekoe said they will only return to the classroom when their allowances are paid.
Each UTAG member is entitled to 1,500 US dollars for the books and 500 for research.
But Mr. Ablakwa said government, prior to the introduction of the Fund, had decided to pay the book and research allowance for 2013/14 academic year.
The government amended its stance in a meeting this week chaired by the Employment Minister with other stakeholders including UTAG, POTAG, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, a deputy Finance Minister and Fair Wages and Salary Commission in attendance, he noted.
The Deputy Minister said the representatives of UTAG informed the meeting they ought to consult union members about the development and respond appropriately, only for them to declare a strike barely 24 hours.
“Our gentlemanly position has been slapped in the face,” he said in shocked tone.
“We have no choice but to withdraw our compromised position,” Ablakwa asserted subsequently. With the strike in place, the Education Ministry washes off it hands to allow the Labour Commission and other stakeholders to be in charge of the issue, he stated.
According to him, the yet-to-be-introduced National Research Fund, which is a better alternative, will seal all the loopholes in the current allowance, citing how non lecturers were benefiting from it, which he said defeated the purpose for which it was established.
He recognized the essence of enhancing research to develop the nation, stressing that government’s would not shelve its educational responsibilities.
But UTAG President Dr. Samuel Ofori-Bekoe in a sharp rebuttal described Ablakwa’s submission as “not accurate”, “not true” as he exhibited a “gross misunderstanding of issues” bothering on the book and research allowance.
He resoundingly retorted government’s decision to withdraw plans to pay this year’s allowance to them.
“If it is out of the table, it should be out of the table. We don’t care,” Dr. Ofori-Bekoe was undisturbed.
Dr. Ofori-Bekoe condemned the government’s persistent "kneel jerk" reaction to issues concerning UTAG.
He emphasised that the government can go ahead with the research fund but it should not scrap the book and research allowance because “the two don’t serve the same purpose”.
The National Council for Tertiary Education will be responsible for administering the National Research Fund.
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