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We await copy of ruling to determine next action - UTAG

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
File photo
File photo

Lecturers of public universities failed to return to the lecture halls yesterday, despite a court ruling directing the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) to call off its strike.

Following the ruling by the Accra High Court last Monday, students showed up for lectures yesterday, hoping to begin academic work, but they were left disappointed, as the lecturers failed to turn up.

According to UTAG, it would determine its next line of action after receiving a certified copy of the Accra High Court (Labour Division’s) order stating what exactly it should do.

The association explained that on receiving the certified copy, it would sit with its lawyers and take a decision.

UTAG insisted that the certified order of the ruling would give clarity on what exactly the association was supposed to do.

“We have been waiting to get the certified order which will detail the specific reliefs that have been granted by the court for us to obey. We have not received that as yet and that would have formed the basis for legal advice from our counsel, and then we will decide what next to do,” the President of the University of Ghana Branch of UTAG, Dr Samuel Nkumbaan, told the Daily Graphic yesterday.

Mindful

Explaining further, he said the association was mindful of the seven-day period within which it had to act on the injunction, and that “we are mindful that in the course of that if we are not getting this extract, then we would need to take some other remedial action in order that we are not on the wrong side of the law”.

He noted that as far as he was concerned, there were two cases pending before the court, one of which was for the court to determine the legality or otherwise of the association’s industrial action, which was the substantive matter, while the other one was the application for injunction on the strike pending the substantive matter.

Both cases, Dr Nkumbaan said, were supposed to be before the court last Tuesday, but a decision on the injunction was taken, while the substantive matter was adjourned to Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

Court order

The Labour Division of the Accra High Court last Tuesday put an injunction on the strike by UTAG after it upheld an interlocutory application by the National Labour Commission (NLC).

Per the decision of the court, presided over by Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson, UTAG was to suspend its strike immediately and go back to the lecture halls.

The NLC filed the application for an order of the High Court to enforce its (NLC) directive for UTAG to call of its strike and return to the negotiation table with the government.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Rockson said the court, in its wisdom, had, on two occasions, advised the parties to settle the dispute out of court.

Based on its directive, he said, various rounds of negotiations had taken place between the government and UTAG, and there were indications that negotiations were still ongoing.

It was the considered view of the court that it was in the interest of justice for an injunction to be placed on the strike for negotiations to continue unimpeded, in line with Section 161 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651).

“The court finds favour with the application and, therefore, the motion for injunction is granted,” Justice Rockson held.

Per Section 161 of Act 651, “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”.

Strike

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 IMP 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.

The NLC, the statutory body mandated to mediate and resolve labour disputes, on January 13, this year, directed UTAG to resume work, on the basis that it 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.

The NLC, therefore, filed an application at the High Court for the enforcement of its directive, in line with Section 172 of Act 651.