30.05.2005 General News

We will not pay striking teachers, if - Osafo-Maafo

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Accra, May 30, GNA - The Minister of Education and Sports, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo on Tuesday said salaries of members of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) would not be paid if they continued with their industrial action.

"We will certainly have to 'close the tap' at a point on teachers who are striking for no justifiable reason, refused to negotiate and are enjoying government facilities," he stated.

Mr Osafo-Maafo, who was speaking at the press conference in Accra in reaction to NAGRAT's current industrial action said the Ministry had acted in good faith to dialogue with the aggrieved teachers to foster industrial harmony, but they were not forthcoming.

He said although, according to the Labour Law, NAGRAT was not recognised and its action was illegal the government had tried to engage them in discussion for the sake of freedom of association.

NAGRAT catalogued problems such as non-payment of supervision and invigilation allowances, Ghana Education Service (GES) inability to convert graduate teachers to their appropriate grades, non-payment of meaningful responsibility allowances and improper salaries for teachers recruited in 2003/04 and the lack of fixing of timetable adjusting salaries of graduate assistant directors and above.

The teachers declared they would embark on strike if those issues were not resolved by March 31, this year.

According to the Minister, he had requested a meeting with NAGRAT executive members after their ultimatum with the aim of finding solutions to the concerns but little was achieved, however they could not make any headway in their subsequent meetings.

"NAGRAT as an association of graduate teachers, in spite of the action taken on their grievances, had decided to hold the whole nation and its students to ransom for reasons difficult to fathom, he added. Mr. Osafo-Maafo further stated, " they have already disregarded National Labour Commission's call to cease their illegal strike, while negotiation continue."

He said the situation have had greater impact on schools in the Central Region because it was the most concentrated region of second cycle schools. Mr. Osafo-Maafo noted that the Ministry made efforts to pay the invigilation and supervision fess based on a data submitted and that out of 477 schools, 329 teachers invigilated and a total over 601 million cedis was paid for 2004 SSSCE examinations.

However, about 148 schools have still not submitted information on those who invigilated in the 2004 SSSCE examinations and it was obvious that without such details those teachers could not be paid.

He noted that it was not an obligation for WAEC to pay teachers for invigilation and supervision since it was considered as part of the teaching process.

Mr. Osafo-Maafo said regarding timetable for adjusting salaries of graduate and assistant directors, the GES Council had received a final report on proposed scheme for personnel in the service, which NAGRAT made input and would soon be submitted to Ministry of Finance for consideration. He said the Ministry was taking serious steps towards the upward adjustment of the general salary structure of teachers to ensure that it reflected the realities of the time.

Mr. Osafo-Maafo noted that every effort was being made to solve the problem raised by NAGRAT, which was also pursued by Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), adding that by law, GNAT was the legitimate body to negotiate on behalf of teachers and that the National Labour Commission was right by asking the NAGRAT members to resume teaching.

The Minister noted that information available indicated that some of the striking teachers were charging fees from students they were clandestinely organising private classes for, even though they were collecting salaries for no work done.

"This is immoral, and any teacher caught would be dealt with." He asked that head teachers should not allow students to attend such classes.

The NAGRAT members have been on strike for about three weeks now and had insisted that until government addressed their concerns they would not go back to the classroom. 30 May 05

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