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15.10.2006 Editorial

A PRESIDENTIAL PLEA

By newtimesonline.com
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A bitter undercurrent of the strike by the National Association of Graduate Teachers is their apparent belief that the government does not value their contribution to the society and this is unfortunate.

It is very unfortunate that any section of the society should feel under valued, because every link is vital to the societal chain.

If they seriously believed that to be the case, we submit that the dramatic appearance by President Kufuor at yesterday's special Meet-the-Press, and his even more dramatic appeal to NAGRAT to end the industrial action, should, we hope, convince NAGRAT that the government appreciates their role and the impact of the withdrawal of their services.

Everybody is in agreement that public service salaries in this country are highly unsatisfactory; even downright disgraceful, in some cases.

The President drew laughter when he quipped that his own salary is lower than that of other Presidents of countries of less stature than Ghana. Clearly he was using humour to underscore the gravity of the 'take home' crisis causing the persistent turbulence in workers' ranks.

Against the backdrop of the explanations given at the Meet-the-Press, notably the alarming arithmetic of the national emoluments bill, it is evident that the government has its back to the wall.

Therefore, there is need for continued patience from NAGRAT and others contemplating industrial action, to wait for the rationalized, equitable pay structure that will take effect from January as announced. No doubt from now on, all public sector salary negotiations will be based on this.

For his part, the Minister, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, has confirmed a view that had been gaining currency in recent days: that as NAGRAT has no bargaining certificate, they need to join the Ghana National Association of Teachers at the negotiation table.

As has been spelt out by knowledgeable sources in the media and other platforms, if NAGRAT joins GNAT at the negotiations table, it would not imply that NAGRAT has been defeated. One can even foresee that their combined force would work to the advantage of all.

We hope that NAGRAT will not view such a proposed negotiating arrangement as a loss of face. It should rather be seen as the pragmatic solution to get their members what they want and a mechanism sure to be faster and more productive way than going to court as NAGRAT has reportedly threatened.

We hope, too, that the distress calls reported from students, parents and observers all over the country, capped by the President's plea yesterday, will mean something to NAGRAT.

The government has laid its cards on the table and given assurance about establishing a fair wages and incomes commission. As stated earlier, there is also the new public service salary arrangements, factored into the 2007 budget, to begin in January.

In the face of all that, for NAGRAT to continue its strike would be risking losing public sympathy and understanding.

And it is not every day that a strike action generates a direct appeal from the President.

This should underscore the fact that the NAGRAT message has been understood. Therefore, we urge NAGRAT to give a positive response to the appeal by the President.

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