Call Off Strike - Labour Commission Orders Striking Teachers

The National Labour Commission (NLC) has directed members of the College of Education Teachers Association Ghana (CETAG) to immediately call off their ongoing strike and restore full service.

The NLC also directed the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and CETAG to return to the negotiation table within five working days (by Monday, December 10, 2018) and continue with negotiations on the interim market premium and book and research allowance.

Fair Wages verses CETAG

The directive, which was contained in a ruling by the NLC, followed a complaint brought by the FWSC against CETAG over a dispute of “indefinite strike action” declared by CETAG since October 29, 2018.

The case was heard by a three-member panel, chaired by Mrs Rose Karikari Anang, with Mr Fidelis Patrice Seddoh and Dr James Atta Krufi Nuamah as members.

 “Having heard the parties, the commission directs that the negotiation must be concluded within 14 working days upon commencement.

“The parties must negotiate in good faith with a view to reaching an agreement,” the NLC stated.

Government ok with ruling

Commenting on the ruling, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, said the government was fully satisfied with the ruling.

He described the strike as unnecessary and that there was no point in declaring a strike when negotiations with the FWSC had not broken down.

He said the government had important reforms to implement at the colleges of education and CETAG should cooperate in the process while negotiations continued.

“This year is crucial for introducing a new curriculum at the CoEs and nothing should be done to thwart government effort,” he added.

Illegal strike

Referring to the ruling, Prof. Yankah said the strike was declared as illegal and,therefore, CETAG members would not be paid for the period of November when they were on strike.

“The case went for compulsory arbitration and the three-member panel declared the strike as illegal. They should go back to work as the National Council for Tertiary Education takes steps to reopen the CoEs to allow classes to resume,” he stated.

Win-win situation

Commenting on the ruling, the President of CETAG, Mr Prince Obeng-Himah, saw the ruling as a win-win situation for both the government and CETAG “because each made gains and each has to adjust its position”.

He said, for instance, that the first directive in the ruling which asked CETAG to call off the strike and restore full service was a gain for the government, while the subsequent ones were a breakthrough for CETAG.

“But if you look at the subsequent ones, which say that the FWSC is supposed to engage CETAG for negotiation of the book and research allowance and the interim market premium, those come as a big win for us.

“This is because prior to the action, the government’s position on the interim market premium was that it was going to give us five per cent of our basic salary and that was its final position. Furthermore, it said it would reopen negotiation next year to explore other avenues to possibly upwardly adjust that percentage for us and we did not agree,” Mr Obeng-Himah explained.

Implications of ruling

He said by the ruling, the FWSC was mandated to move away from the 2019 schedule it was thinking of “to just next week Monday and it is supposed to be done within two weeks”.

Mr Obeng-Himah explained that it meant that it was no longer going to be a five per cent matter but about what pertained at the tertiary level.

He also said for the book and research allowance, the government’s position was that it had no money and so it was not ready to engage CETAG until it got money.

However, per the ruling, he said, the issue was no longer about the availability of money but a matter of responsibility.

NEC meeting

Mr Obeng-Himah said at 10 a.m. today (Wednesday) the leadership would meet the National Executive Council (NEC) of the association to brief it on the outcome of the ruling and after that CETAG would come out with its official position.

CETAG has been in negotiations with the government since 2012 over the payment of members’ interim market premium and book and research allowance.

Following the government’s unwillingness to heed the demands of CETAG, the leadership declared a strike, which has affected all the 46 public CoEs in the country.

The government has also frozen the November allowances and salaries of the lecturers for not working for over three weeks.

The leadership of CETAG, in some media interviews, described the government’s directive to withhold their November allowances and salaries as unlawful.

Since the CoEs were upgraded to the status of universities in 2016, their lecturers have been demanding better conditions of service just like their colleagues in the universities.