NLC, POTAG lock horns over strike action
The Industrial and Labour Court has fixed November 12, this year, to rule on the impasse between the National Labour Commission (NLC) and the striking Polytechnic Teachers' Association of Ghana (POTAG), which had gone on for weeks now.
The court, presided over by Justice Kwabena Asuman-Adu, gave the date yesterday, after the NLC and POTAG locked horns before the court, in arguing an application filed by the Association.
The NLC is requesting the court to compel the leadership of POTAG to submit to compulsory arbitration, declare their strike as illegal and order them to call off the strike, in accordance with the order and directives it had issued to members of POTAG.
However, POTAG noted that the NLC had not put in place a proper road-map to enable them to go through the arbitration procedure.
In his argument before the court, Mr. C.S. Sackey, counsel for the NLC, indicated that its action of hauling POTAG before the court was in accordance with the Labour Act Section 172, and in compliance to the Civil order rule of the court.
According to counsel, the leadership of POTAG, through its National President, in a letter dated July 30, 2010, to the NLC, called for negotiations on their conditions of service, which had expired since 2006.
Furthermore, counsel noted that POTAG then served noticed that if by a stipulated time frame nothing was done, it would go on strike, adding that the NLC responded that the Association had not fulfilled the necessary conditions of embarking on a strike action.
Counsel pointed out that the POTAG, on August 25, 2010, wrote another letter expressing frustrations in their conditions of service and asked for its suspension adding that on September 8, 2010, when the NLC met the Teachers and Educational Workers' Union (TEWU) and POTAG, the National President of POTAG informed the Commission that the Association had been on a sit down strike.
This, counsel told the court that the NLC advised against POTAG's sit down strike, since it is illegal and ordered them to go back to the classrooms, while the Fair Wages Commission was also directed to resolve the conditions of service of the Association.
Additionally, counsel noted that the NLC ordered that POTAG should be subjected to a compulsory arbitration so that unresolved issues could be dealt with. However, the Association wrote a protest letter questioning why they were asked to call off their strike.
Mr. Sackey told the court that POTAG refused to heed to the orders of the NLC, noting that the Commission uses relevant portions of the Labour Act to resolve labour issues, depending on the facts of the issue presented for redress.
In opposing the request of the NLC and demanding that the Fair Wages Commission be ordered to comply with the orders of the Commission, Mr. Sampson Obeng, counsel for POTAG, further called on the court to decline the request of the NLC, and order it to apply pressures on all parties of the impasse in the way and manner that would be beneficial to all.
In his argument, counsel noted that the Fair Wage Commission had blatantly refused to negotiate with POTAG, with the reason that it will disrupt their plans for the new Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).
According to counsel, on October 29, 2010, POTAG received a letter from the NLC, inviting them for a meeting, however, the Association indicated that the Fair Wages Commission was not prepared to enter into negotiations.
Counsel told the court that the NLC had not exhibited a competent sign that shows that the Fair Wages Commission is willing for negotiations.
According to counsel, POTAG is not comfortable with the NLC presiding over the compulsory arbitration since it had showed clear signs of bias in favour of the Fair Wages Commission.