Labour Commission secures injunction against UTAG’s strike

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
(Left) Mr Ofosu Asamoah — Executive Secretary of the National Labour Commission and Prof. Charles Marfo — UTAG President
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The National Labour Commission (NLC) has secured an interlocutory injunction from the Accra High Court to compel the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) to return to work from an industrial action.

The injunction is to last for 10 days.

“It is hereby ordered that the respondent by itself, its executives, officers, members, agents, servants, etc. are restrained from continuing with the current industrial action and are to comply with the directive of the NLC dated August 2, 2021,” the court said.

The NLC on August 2, 2021, invited members of the UTAG and the Senior Staff Association-Universities of Ghana (SSA-UoG) to appear before it on Thursday, August 5, 2021 for the hearing of their matters in dispute with government.

With its intervention, the commission directed the two associations to call off their separate indefinite strikes which started last Monday.

Demand

The UTAG on August 2, 2021, began an industrial action over what it said was the failure of government to restore 2012 salary levels for its members.

"UTAG demands that government should just restore the 2012 values for the lecturers without recourse to adjustments. We are not asking for any increment in our salaries; we are asking for restoration," the President of UTAG, Professor Charles Marfo, said at a news conference last Wednesday.

He indicated that UTAG had been back and forth with the National Labour Commission (NLC) on the issue but nothing had been done about the matter.

He said UTAG believed its demand was appropriate and fair, and that “if the government finds it difficult to do that, UTAG is willing to follow a road map as suggested by Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Badu’s report on the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for Article 71 Office holders, June 2020”.

Failure

Prof. Marfo said government had failed to cooperate with UTAG to complete negotiations on its conditions of service, which started in August 2018, adding that although some progress had been made in some respects, the key areas at the core of UTAG’s condition of service had seen no progress.

He said it appeared there was no end in sight while UTAG members continued to wallow in worsening economic conditions.

He said the few times that UTAG had met government over the conditions of service of its members, “government has always failed to respect the rules of engagement signed between the two parties to guide the negotiations, especially the full complement of key government officials who could be described as having locus and for that matter, capable of committing government into any serious discussions.”

The UTAG President said it was in the face of such exhibition of bad faith and abysmal progress in the negotiations that the current situation had cropped up, and that “for emphasis, the progress made so far is abysmal and, indeed, nothing to write home about”.

Prof. Marfo said the association found the lukewarm attitude of government worrying and frustrating, hence the need to inform the public of the unfair treatment against it.

According to him, UTAG did not seek to make anybody or institution unpopular, and that all it sought to do was to let everyone know that members had been left to wallow in worsening conditions of service for far too long and deserved some meaningful attention.

Historical account

Prof. Marfo explained that in 2003, upon a recommendation by a Standing Joint Negotiation Committee (SJNC), government accepted a five-year (2004-2008) road map for improvement in the levels of remuneration for senior members of the public universities in the country.

He said at the end of the road map in 2008, the monthly entry point salary of a lecturer was $1,500 payable in cedi equivalent, and that per the agreement of the five-year road map, general increases in salaries in subsequent years would apply to the $1,500.

In addition, he said, with the advent and subsequent implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) policy for public sector workers, “in the negotiations that ended in January 2012, an Interim Market Premium (IPM) was fixed at 114 per cent of the basic salary, and that led to a lecturer being paid the cedi equivalent of $2,084.41 from January 2012.

“It is important to note that the 114 per cent of the basic salary was determined to ensure that the gains made with the SJNC in 2003 would be sustained,” he said.

Prof. Marfo said one key element in the implementation of the SSSS was the fact that no employee was to be made worse off with the new pay regime, but said the academic senior member had become worse off following the implementation of the SSSS pay policy.

“At the beginning of 2020, the entry gross salary (that is, basic plus market premium) of a lecturer in the public universities was $997.84 (GH¢5,687.66) far less than the $1,500 per month that was reached at the end of the road map in 2008 and further improved with the SSSS in 2012 to $2,084.42. Clearly, you can see the drop of over $1,086.57; that is GH¢6,193.45, a drop which is more than the lecturer’s present take home pay,” he said.