It's been months since the Technical University Teachers Association of Ghana (TUTAG) took on government over delayed processes to migrate its members to the proper pay structure of universities following the conversion of polytechnics to technical universities.
The conversion may have come with its own challenges although its purpose was to bridge the gap between academia and industry.
The current impasse which is now the centre of attraction began in October 2019 when the Association raised concerns that emoluments due its members had not been released despite a directive from the Ministry of Finance to the Controller and Accountant General's Department.
TUTAG's strike took an interesting twist when some other unions including the Technical University Administrators of Ghana (TUAAG), the Technical Senior Administrators Association of Ghana (TUSAAG) and the Technical University Workers Association of Ghana (TUWAG) also decided to embark on an industrial action to register their displeasure to demand full benefits of the migration.
Key among their concerns was the demand for their base salary to be in line with their new status as university staff and not polytechnic staff. The claimed that the government was deliberately dragging its feet in migrating them onto the public universities' salary structure.
After a series of discussions with the appropriate stakeholders, the unions suspended their strike when TUTAG took the lead decision three weeks later.
They agreed to return to work following the implementation clarification and agreement with the government through the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).
At the time, the NLC had ruled that the “back pay of the allowances effective August 2019, shall be paid in January and February 2020 stressing that the parties go back to negotiate and act in good faith at all times.”
On December 27, 2019, TUTAG declared an immediate resumption of its suspended strike but called it off again after about six hours.
Fast forward to 2020, TUTAG on January 6, declared yet another indefinite strike accusing the government of failing to comply with the NLC ruling as agreed three months ago.
This makes it the third in less than six months that the lecturers are protesting. 48 hours later, the administrators in a similar fashion, also laid down their tools. They lament that the amount they received in December 2019 was below the allowances paid their colleagues with similar ranks in other universities.
Fair Wages and National Labour Commission stance
The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and the National Labour Commission (NLC) made a point that the continuous strikes by the lecturers and the administrators have no basis. At a point, the two commissions accused the groups of not coming to the negotiation table and rather decided to lay down their tools.
NCTE dragged in
The striking lecturers later accused the government of buying time through the National Council of Tertiary Education (NCTE) and scaring them from further demanding what is due them.
NCTE, however, absolved itself from blame arguing that the delays in the payment of the allowances are as a result of the lecturers' failure to submit the requisite data needed by the Council for onward processing.
It said, all efforts to get the teachers to submit the details have proven futile thereby questioning TUTAG's preparedness to get their monies paid.
The NLC has however assured that TUTAG members in institutions that have submitted or yet to submit their data to the NCTE will be paid as required.
Academic work, businesses affected
The deadlock had its fair share on academic activities and businesses on the various campuses. It had dire consequences on technical education as students held protests to have the concerns of their faculties addressed.
The academic calendar of the institutions was adversely affected.
In the new development, issues of examinations, invigilation and marking of scripts have all been distorted.
Students are obviously not happy; they bemoan the current turn of events as the fate of their academic lives continues to hang in the balance.
But the Ghana National Union of Technical Students (GNUTS) urged its students to be calm as it anticipates a lasting solution to the perennial strikes by their lecturers. Traders adversely affected
For traders, whose livelihoods depend on the regular running of academic activities, their businesses and economic gains have negatively been affected by the strike. NLC directs TUTAG to call off strike
The National Labour Commission last Friday, directed TUTAG to call off its strike.
The Commission said the government would be working to migrate their qualified members to the single spine pay structure and pay them their allowances by January 29.
This order was reached after the Commission met with representatives of TUTAG, Ministries of Finance, Education, Employment and Labour Relations, Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and the Controller and Accountant's General's Department on the way forward to resolve the current impasse.
NLC says the union must go back to the lecture halls as the government works to migrate their qualified members to the Single Spine Salary Structure and pay what is due them by January 29 .
In a four-point directive, the NLC also assured that TUTAG members in institutions that have submitted or yet to submit their data to the National Council for Tertiary Education will be paid their allowances as required.
“The Commission also directs that with this intervention, TUTAG shall call off the strike with immediate effect and return to work”, the statement said.
The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission subsequently said it has completed the migration of senior and junior staff of the technical universities from the polytechnic single spine grade structure to the appropriate grade structure of senior and junior staff of public universities.
The Commission says the migration has been approved for implementation accordingly following a letter dated 8th January 2020, signed by the Commission's Executive Secretary, Dr. Edward Kwapong, and addressed to the Finance Minister.
Prior to last Friday’s meeting, the various groups had vowed to continue the strike until the government complies with the NLC's ruling.
The unions argued that the current government has not shown much commitment towards their grievances because it was the erstwhile Mahama government that initiated the conversion of the polytechnics.
The government and its agencies continue to pay lip service to the concerns raised by the Associations. The blame games are causing more harm than good as the reliefs being sought by the aggrieved persons have not been provided.
The back and forth by the unions with the stakeholders only prove the point that, despite any intervention, they will always be out of the lecture hall anytime they feel their demands are not being adequately met.
While some have asked the NLC to sue the government for defying its directives on the allowances, others want the striking lectures to rather adopt a more workable mechanism to resolve the gridlock with the government.