UTAG must heed court directive
UTAG must heed court directive

UTAG must heed court directive

Yesterday, the Labour Division of the Accra High Court ordered members of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) to go back to the lecture halls while their leaders return to the negotiation table with the National Labour Commission (NLC).

The directive follows an application for an interlocutory injunction by the NLC to compel the UTAG to call off the almost five-week strike that grounded academic activities in all public universities in the country.

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It has always been the position of the NLC that the only place the impasse can be addressed is the negotiation table, that the law does not permit any party to be on strike while at the negotiation table, and that both parties must make an effort to get the academic calendar back on track.

The ruling of the court is, therefore, premised on Section 161 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), which states that “a party to an industrial dispute shall not resort to a strike or lockout during a period when negotiations, mediation or arbitration proceedings are in progress.”

For us at the Daily Graphic, we have always advocated that both parties make a conscious effort in an act of good faith, will and transparency to get the academic calendar back on track. It was, therefore, most worrying that it was taking too long for the UTAG crisis to be addressed.

Considering the posture of UTAG in the negotiation process, we consider the order by the High Court as long overdue but a directive whose time has come.

The wish of all well-meaning Ghanaians is to see academic work back to life in our universities, and that the strike by the UTAG should not get to the level where the lecturers would be compelled by a court order to go back to the lecture theatres.

It was the hope of many that the strike would be resolved at the negotiation table, considering the fact that the two sides were, on two occasions, given a window of opportunity by the court to go back to the negotiation table.

We believe that was the way Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson wanted when he advised the two sides on the two occasions to negotiate instead of resorting to the court action.

However, after the two failed attempts, he had no option but to give the directive, which we believe is necessary to ensure that the two sides — UTAG and the government, represented by the NLC — reconvene to arrive at an amicable solution to bring about a stable academic front.

The Daily Graphic appeals to the UTAG members to heed the court’s directive, rescind their decision to hold onto the strike and return to the lecture rooms while negotiations continue.

That will pave the way for their leaders to reconvene at the negotiation table with the NLC.

We believe that the five-week strike is enough signal of the resolve of UTAG that it is prepared to go to every length to secure its legitimate demands.

The Daily Graphic urges the two sides to show signs of good faith, transparency and trust as they go back to the negotiation table.

These values are non-negotiable if the two sides are to reach a compromise.

Time is fast ticking, the academic calendar is almost out of gear and such frank discussions and compromises are needed to bring stability to the academic environment.

Recently, the Director-General of the Ghana Tertiary Commission (GTEC), Professor Mohammed Salifu, appealed to the UTAG to ensure that it should not be seen to be disrespecting the lawful authority of the mediator, the NLC, even if it has any misgivings about it.

The call by the GTEC boss was critical because we all look up to UTAG as the epitome of knowledge and respect. So everything it does is seen as sacrosanct and that is what the professor was seeking to prevent.

It is the hope and expectation of the Daily Graphic that the two sides will allow cool heads to prevail to ensure that a compromise is reached for full academic work to resume in earnest.

The return to the negotiation table should bring lasting solution to the strike to allow lecturers to focus on what they love doing best – lecturing.

Many contact hours have been lost and that should not be allowed to continue. Our children need their lecturers in the lecture rooms and this is the perfect time for their return.

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