Good faith key to end UTAG impasse
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), has embarked on a strike over what it deems the failure of the government to restore the 2012 salary levels for its members.
Related to this, the National Labour Commission (NLC) has secured an interlocutory injunction from the Accra High Court to compel the association to return to work. That has not happened.
UTAG remains adamant and has filed a counter motion against the injunction.
What seems to be an unending problem over the conditions of service, particularly of the university teachers, is most troubling and could undermine the peace and progress of the nation.
The conditions of service of the Ghanaian teacher has been an issue for public discourse for some time now. The government has also been negotiating with the leadership of UTAG for many years but the issue keeps coming up. From the standpoint of UTAG, their conditions of service is nothing to write home about. They often cite Article 71 of the Constitution as very discriminatory. For this reason, including what they consider the exhibition of bad faith by the government to implement negotiated items, our teachers, many a time, feel that they are being shortchanged.
If it gets to payments and remuneration for teachers, the mantra has always been we do not have money, so most teachers feel disappointed.
From the government’s stance, due to inadequate revenue, a situation occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it had tried to negotiate a zero salary increment for workers this year. Organised labour, however, pushed to get a four per cent increment which has incurred the wrath of some of its members.
The turn of events in our universities is quite unfortunate because if the university teachers do not return to the classrooms immediately, academic work will ultimately suffer.
We, therefore, want to add our voice to the appeal to UTAG to call off its industrial action and return to the classrooms for the sake of students to enable them to continue with their studies.
We also appeal to the government and relevant stakeholders to do everything possible to resolve the UTAG impasse and other university workers once and for all.
Furthermore, we urge the parties to go to the negotiation table with the willingness to make some compromise. It will be wrong for the parties to go to the negotiation table with an entrenched positions.
In all of these , while the grown-ups are going about their fights, it is the students who suffer.
These unending strikes affect students greatly as they cannot write their examination as well as pursue further studies outside the country since they would need their transcripts to do so.
The role played by teachers in national development efforts is critical in any society. This is because the services they offer help to produce a critical mass of nation builders.
For this reason, every effort must be made to keep them in the classrooms and more so considering the harm caused by COVID-19 on the education sector, we cannot afford to let the strike linger.
While lasting efforts are being made to resolve the UTAG impasse, the government must also be mindful of fairness to all categories of staff in the public universities. Failure to resolve the issues fairly could escalate the already turbulent labour front in the universities.
In another development, we note with satisfaction that the Ministry of Education is implementing various interventions to recover lost hours occasioned by the COVID-19.
Additionally, the Ministry is working at leapfrogging inequality to enable the education system to stand the test of time.
The Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, mentioned the introduction of television and radio learning for basic schoolchildren as well as the online virtual learning and the I-Campus for the secondary and tertiary level, while printed learning materials were distributed to children in rural areas as some of the interventions being employed.
These are great moves to build resilience in the education system as well as the adoption of new ways of thinking about learning in schools with little interference and interruptions..
To improve studies and uninterrupted academic work, we believe it is time to teach students to be independent and lifelong learners. Teaching and learning in our view must be structured in such a way that while the teachers may sometimes agitate for their remuneration, the students will not suffer by way of lesson losses.
We, therefore, need to build resilience and develop websites where students can access course materials so that independent learning can take place with little interference and interruptions. With technology, we know that learning can take place at anytime and anywhere and not just in the classroom.