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26.09.2005 General News

Govt to pay 22% arrears of POTAG, but strike looms

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Accra, Sept. 26, GNA - Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, Minister of Manpower Youth and Employment, on Monday said government had agreed to pay 22 per cent salary arrears across board for Polytechnic teachers with effect from April to September 30, 2005.

He said the Ministry had received a letter dated September 19, from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, instructing the Controller and Accountant-General to pay the salary increases and arrears from October to November 2005 to the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG).

Mr Adda said the outstanding issue was negotiations for 2006 salaries and conditions of service and that the Ministry was waiting for a directive from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in order to begin negotiations with POTAG.

He added that the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu was out of the country and expressed the hope that on his return the ministry would do something about the negotiations. Mr Adda said this after a meeting with executives of POTAG in Accra to find a lasting solution to protracted salary negotiations between POTAG and government.

He said POTAG was happy that government had kept faith with the payment of the arrears. However, POTAG was still anxious to enter into negotiations for the 2006 salaries, he said, adding that that POTAG had reconsidered its decision to go strike.

However, according to Mr Francis Amoako-Attah, Chairman of Kumasi Polytechnic branch of POTAG, they were embarking on an immediate strike because they entertained fears that government was again dilly-dallying with the 2006 salary negotiations when budget hearing was around the corner.

"Budget would be read in November so if we are not able to begin any negotiations as early as possible for any figures to be effected there would be a problem with our 2006 salaries."

Asked if they would not wait for the Finance Minister to return, he said this was not the first time they were in such a situation. According to him POTAG never did any salary negotiations;

Government always asked POTAG to accept their percentage and come later for negotiations, which never materialised because POTAG would wait to be called for negotiations in vain.

"POTAG demands better conditions of service with regards to job description, terms of employment, progression and end of service benefits," he added.

Giving the background to the development, Mr Amoako-Attah said in June 2003 the Ministry of Education set up a Committee to come out with a unified tertiary salary structure to solve the perennial salary problem.

He said the committee's report recommended that the mechanism used for salaries of University lecturers be applied to those of Polytechnic teachers.

Mr Amoako-Attah said the mechanism operated from July 2003 to December 2003, but in January 2004 salaries of university lecturers were increased but those of the polytechnics remained the same. He said POTAG lodged a complaint but Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister in charge of Tertiary Education told POTAG to chart its own path. Mr Amoako-Attah said POTAG was compelled to negotiate for salary increases and other conditions of service, but this was not done. He said in the latter part of 2004, POTAG began negotiations with a standing joint negotiating committee but because it was election year the negotiations had to stop and to date the negotiation team had not been called to the table.

This, he said, caused POTAG to threaten a strike action and government called it on July 8, 2005 for a meeting with other stakeholders, which included the Ministries of Education and Sports, Finance and Economic Planning and Manpower, Youth and Employment at which a memorandum of understanding was signed saying that negotiations were to reconvene three weeks later.

Mr Amoako-Attah said POTAG convened an emergency meeting in Tamale on August 30, 2005 and resolved that if government did not do anything about their demands by September 20, 2005, POTAG would embark on strike. On September 19, 2005, Ms Elizabeth Ohene called POTAG and redirected it to the Ministry of Manpower and Employment as regards their negotiations.

He said the Minister understood their position and signed an agreement with POTAG to give him one week to consult with the Ministries of Finance and Economic Planning and Education, Youth and Sports and then give POTAG a feedback on September 26, 2005.