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University unions strike over ‘unresolved grievances’

University unions strike over ‘unresolved grievances’

Multiple industrial actions have rocked public university campuses, as different working groups strike over unresolved welfare issues, including pension contributions, vehicle maintenance allowances and overtime payments.

The striking groups are the Senior Staff Association of Universities of Ghana (SSAUG), the Federation of Universities Senior Staff Association of Ghana (FUSSAG), the Teachers’ and Educational Workers’ Union (TEWU) of Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA).

Last Monday, the University of Ghana branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UG-UTAG) voted in support of a strike.

The National Labour Commission (NLC) has, however, criticised the ongoing strikes, deeming them "unmeritorious" and “potentially unlawful".

The Daily Graphic visited the University of Ghana (UG) and found the UG Basic School still closed since the strike began in January.

Majority of the staff of the school, who are members of the SSAUG and TEWU of TUC, have vacated their posts in demand for better conditions of service and their Tier Two pension fund.

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The UG Branch Chairman of the SSAUG, Francis Sosu, told the Daily Graphic that although their members were on strike, an arrangement was made for only the Junior High School 3 students to be in school.

He indicated that the association last week met with the Ministry of Finance, and that their members would only return when their demands were met.

The UG Branch Vice-Chairman of TEWU of TUC, Benjamin Nkumsah, also told the Daily Graphic that their members would not return until the government paid their Tier Two pension fund.

According to him, their meeting with the Ministry of Finance was inconclusive as there was no concrete agreement between the association and the ministry.

The reporters also observed that all libraries and departmental offices were closed, while cleaners and other service providers under SSAUG and TEWU were not at post.

At the Balm Library, librarians were absent, but there was a university security officer attending to students.

Meanwhile, at the UG City Campus, students were stranded as they could not gain access to the library.

At the University of Media, Arts and Communication-Ghana Institute of Journalism (UniMAC-GIJ), students were still on vacation, but administrative staff and other workers were conspicuously absent, with the offices closed.

A source who asked not to be named confirmed that some staff were on strike.

ATU

There was hardly any hint of a strike on the Accra Technical University (ATU) campus.

Both students and staff looked busy.

Some students stated that they were preparing to sit their exam, and that was why the campus looked so busy.

The students were mostly in groups.

A Students’ Representative Council (SRC) member, under the condition of anonymity, intimated that the strike was not affecting the students because levels 200 and 300 students were having end of semester exams, supervised by lecturers.

“Students are living normal on campus.

The level 100s, who are supposed to have in-person classes, are having them online due to the ongoing exam on campus,” she said. 

“The strike is at the top; the administration and the senior lecturers.

They are the ones not working, but lecturers who teach in various classes, they do well to teach online and supervise them as well,” the source elaborated. 

The ATU Local Chairperson of TEWU of TUC, Salamatu Mahama Braimah, told the Daily Graphic that the university was yet to join the traditional universities on the strike.

Ms Braimah, who is also the Second National Vice-Chairperson of TEWU of TUC, said because their students were in their examination period, they had given the government ample time to meet their demands.

She, however, urged the government “to do the right thing” as some of their members would soon be on pension, adding that “we were owed nine months of arrears, and they’ve paid three, so we are still waiting for the six”.

Some students who spoke with the Daily Graphic expressed concern over the strike although their classes were not affected by the industrial action.

Samuel Ampofo, a level 100 student of UG, indicated that it was always a challenge for freshers to locate their various classrooms for lectures as they were all freshers in the school.

Seyram Dunyo, a Master’s student, indicated that they had not felt the impact of the strike because it began during their examination week.

Meanwhile, Isabella Ketoglo, a level 100 Social Science student at UG, appealed to the government to attend to the needs of the striking groups.

She described her first day at the school as boring because she could not get access to her department and could also not use the university library.

Sanitation, students’ reaction

Sanitary conditions on the campuses seem to get worse as most workers stay away.

At the UG, most dustbins were yet to be emptied although they were not overflowing with rubbish.

The campus was untidy with rubbish everywhere, while washrooms of some faculties were also not clean and were emitting a foul smell.

At UniMAC-GIJ, all washrooms were locked due to the absence of students, while dustbins were almost empty.

The compound, however, looked dirty with hardly any indications of the place being swept recently.

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