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17.09.2019 Feature Article

Regional GNAT’s wildcat strike: a parochial unionism?

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has recently left many in shock by what was described as an internal standoff between the union’s regional and national executives.

Interestingly, the separate press statements by six of its regional chairpersons on one hand, and the national executives on the other, over a strike action declared by the former without the latter’s authorization, had raised some ethical views among the union members and sympathizers about the lawfulness of the strike.

While the action by the regional chairpersons has left some members of the union bemused, majority of them applauded the spectacular manner in which the decision was taken and regarded the regional leaders as heroes for taking the entire political and administrative leadership of the union to the cleaners.

In the wake of this, the question that would border anyone is: why would the union’s regional leaders choreograph an industrial action when their top leaders, in this case, the association’s national president, Ms. Philipa Larsen, and the secretary, Mr. David Ofori Acheampong have not delegated such function to them?

Probably, the fact that majority of the union’s regional chairmen could cleverly bypass its managerial acme and announce an indefinite strike is a proof of a deep crack in the premier teacher union’s management.

As a matter of fact, the outpouring of credits and compliments was a testament about how a countless number of their members were pleased by their move.

Undoubtedly, the rank-and-file members of the union, today, believe the national machinery is on autopilot. Presently, the union prefers playing second fiddle - always hiding under other union's shadows in administering their activities- even though these unions are nowhere near the union in terms of numerical strength. As a result, the little reliefs we enjoy as a union were made possible simply because other proactive unions led the struggle, headlong.

To affirm that, it came as little surprise when Mr. Acheampong’s hastily condemned the regional strikes using sham statements that sought to cast a slander on the reputation of the gallant regional leaders. And that was a cowardly thing to do. Instead, it sent a dispiriting message which further demoralized the members. Truly, if for nothing at all, it was a means to cover the eyes of discerning Ghanaians on the current plights of the suffering teacher with the veil of pro-employer shenanigan.

Surely, the national leadership’s feet dragging posture in acting in sympathy of the suffering members of the union is nothing short of greed. For instance, in their infamous press conference, beneath the secretary’s shibboleths and rants, a proper scrutiny leads one to discover nothing but deception, hypocrisy and insensitivity.

It goes without saying that, unionism is an action-bound business requiring leaders to altruistically work together with members at the various levels to champion their collective interests. Unfortunately, it has become clear that, today, within the union the reverse is the case as the mandate of utilizing the union’s bargaining power to improve members working conditions including benefits, job safety, and all work-related disagreements has been compromised.

It stands to reason that, the union’s enviable brand as a non-partisan, non- sectarian, and an equal opportunity teachers' union is now been traded for personal gains since the current national executives’ inactions – choosing to remain mute and conservative on pressing issues affecting teachers- had proven too parochial to be called leaders.

Yet, the twenty-first century teacher is not sleeping as the union’s leadership would want it’s compadres to believe. S/he has become awake to the true understanding of his or her conditions of service and the general mistreatments on the part of the employer. Hence s/he is hungry for swift actions. This is exactly what they bargained for in electing their leaders into office.

Actually, this time around the mere fact that the employer, through the Minister of Education, could not disregard the core issues for which purpose the unions declared strike; press conference explanations and counter accusations by the national leadership cannot remain an excuse for their appalling behaviour.

And so, among the labour unions, if it has taken a strike action for the National Association of Teachers (NAGRAT) to awake the employer to the realities befalling the already demoralized teacher, why would radical regional leaders of GNAT not do same for the suffering members in their union realizing that their conservative bosses are becoming heedless to their plights?

Komla Lokoe
[email protected]

Komla Lokoe
Komla Lokoe, © 2019

This author has authored 4 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KomlaLokoe

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