Sunyani (B/A), Sept. 26, GNA - Teachers in basic schools within the Sunyani Municipality on Monday begun a strike action in protest against an alleged Government refusal to abide by an earlier agreement with the National Executive of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) in respect of salary increase and other benefits. Most of the schools visited by the Ghana News Agency had no teachers on duty and the pupils were roaming along the streets while others went home at 0800 hours because there were no teachers in their classrooms.
Apparently pupils who were not aware of the teachers' decision taken at a meeting convened by the Association last Friday were shocked when they reported for school on Monday morning only to meet empty classrooms without teachers.
Reports reaching the GNA in Sunyani said teachers in Berekum, Wenchi, Nkoranza and Dormaa districts as well as in Techiman Municipality all in Brong-Ahafo Region had also joined the industrial action.
Mr. Kwaku Asante-Nketiah, Sunyani Municipal Secretary of GNAT confirmed the action taken by the teachers in an interview with GNA, saying "they embarked on the strike action due to the Government's breach of contract with the National Executive of the Association." He explained that at a recent joint negotiation with the Civil Servants Association (CSA), Judicial Service Association of Ghana (JUSAG), Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) and GNAT in Accra, Executives of GNAT demanded a salary increase of 30 per cent but the Government settled on four per cent.
Mr. Asante-Nketiah said the Association reduced its request from 30 per cent to 20 per cent during subsequent negotiations while the Government's bid increased from four per cent to 10 per cent with additional benefits.
The Municipal GNAT Secretary said the National Executive agreed on the 10 per cent salary increase and other decisions that included allowance increases for teachers possessing cars or bicycles. Other offers by the Government under the proposal included increase of funeral grant for coffin from one million cedis to two million cedis for a deceased teacher and night allowance.
Mr. Asante-Nketiah said when the National Executive met the Government representatives for the final Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Government surprisingly shifted the date for the commencement of the payment of the 10 per cent increase in salaries from March to June, a last-minute decision that did not go down well with GNAT. He gave the assurance that the teachers would resume work "only if the Government would re-consider its last-minute 'unfriendly' decision and let what had been agreed upon to stand to motivate the suffering poor teachers."
Meanwhile, some parents and guardians GNA interviewed on the issue expressed dissatisfaction with the situation. They did not apportion blame to any of the two sides in the negotiations but appealed to the Government to review its stance in the interest of the children's education.
"If the strike action becomes nation-wide and continued it will have an impact on the Government's Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme," they stressed.
At Dormaa-Ahenkro, a representative of GNAT told the Mr Daniel Asante, District GNAT Secretary said a circular issued to the teachers described the Government's decision "as gross breach of trust, calculated to deny teachers of their fair share of the national cake".
The circular said, sometime in September 2004, parties in the negotiations agreed on some issues including the payment of arrears for their "inexplicable" salary reduction in July 2004 and the adjustment of all reimbursable allowances.
However, it regretted that on September 12, this year, for the parties to endorse the MOU, the Government negated on its decision. When GNA visited some public schools in the morning, pupils had turned up for classes but there were no teachers.