UTAG, govt to restart negotiations
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and the government are expected to report to the National Labour Commission (NLC) on Monday, February 7, 2022, to find solutions to the UTAG strike that has crippled public universities.
This follows a letter from the NLC, dated Thursday, February 3, 2022, inviting all parties in the dispute for negotiations, in compliance with a directive by the Labour Division of the Accra High Court.
On Thursday, February 3, the court, presided over by Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson, directed the parties to return to the negotiation table and engage in more dialogue as a way of resolving the impasse which had led to the strike.
NLC legal action
The NLC, the statutory body mandated to mediate and resolve labour disputes, had filed an application urging the court to order UTAG to call off the strike while negotiations continued
On January 13, this year, the NLC directed UTAG to resume work, on the basis that its strike was in violation of the law and procedures for embarking on strikes.
It further directed UTAG to formally submit issues it said were in dispute with the government for redress and report back to the commission on February 6, 2022.
However, UTAG disregarded the NLC directive and sustained the strike it started on January 10.
Lawyers for the NLC and UTAG were in the courtroom to battle out the case, but Justice Rockson directed the disputing parties to give negotiations another chance.
The presiding judge gave the parties one week to engage in the negotiations and report back to the court on February 10.
What this means is that if by February 10 the parties have successfully resolved the impasse, the NLC will likely withdraw the suit for the court to strike it out as withdrawn.
This was the tactic the same court adopted in dispensing justice in a similar legal action filed by the NLC against UTAG in August last year.
UTAG embarked on the strike on January 10, this year, calling on the employer (government) to restore its members to the 2013 Interim Market Premium (IMP) of 114 per cent of basic salary.
The labour union also wants the government to go ahead to formulate guidelines to implement the appropriate recommendations to address the general conditions of service of the university teacher.
It is the case of UTAG that the IMP, which was instituted after the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy, is frozen, per a government White Paper in 2013, for the purpose of the conduct of a labour market survey (LMS) to determine the MP payable to workers deserving of it.
UTAG contends that till date, the determination has not been made, which has resulted in the erosion of the university teacher’s salary.
In its release declaring the strike on January 7, this year, the UTAG Council said there was the hope that by completing and implementing the LMS Report of 2019, a review of the IMP would put the university teacher on a relatively good salary stead.
“Regrettably, the recommendations of the 2019 LMS Report, without any accompanying technical report on the implementable MP, is meaningless to UTAG, as it does not address the pertinent issues of improved CoS,” it said.
The strike has crippled activities in all public universities and threatened to disrupt the academic calendar which had been tweaked and adjusted to meet the contingencies brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are fears that public universities face imminent closure if the UTAG strike is not called off.
This is because, by convention, three weeks (21 days) into a strike that grounds academic work, the schools are expected to close down.