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12.04.2005 General News

Gov't Feels the Heat....

By Public Agenda

... And Increases Workers Salaries By 16% Accra, April 11 (Public Agenda) -- Government has agreed to restore the suspended 16% increase in salaries of workers announced in March last year. This was after workers' representatives have prevailed on the government to provide a living wage for the people.

This came to light when Public Agenda spoke to Nana Nkrumah Apprey III, the Ablekuma District Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). When asked whether he was optimistic the government will still come out with further salary increases in the year, he said the 'official' salary adjustments would be announced in due course.

During an interview with Public Agenda at his office last Thursday, the head of the public affairs department of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Kwaku Darko Aferi, could not immediately confirm the new development. He said although he is not aware of the government's intention to reintroduce last year's suspended salary increase he supported the move.

"This will offer the stakeholders ample time to enter into proper negotiations with the government whiles the reactivated salary serves as an interim measure to cushion workers against the recent hikes in fuel prices" he explained.

Most of the workers Public Agenda spoke to were apprehensive over what they termed as the government's 'delaying tactics' in wage increases.

Mr. Ben Asare, a Principal Superintendent of Ghana Education Service of the Ablekuma North Sub-Metro expressed disappointment over the government's refusal to give teachers 'something' last month as promised.

"Many of us thought due to the gravity of the current unbearable economic hardships confronting teachers, things were going to be effected promptly after the fuel price hikes" he lamented.

Mr. Moses Agbanyo, a Senior Superintendent of GES and a teacher at Odorkor Maclean JSS, was equally worried and called on stakeholders in the labour front to work expeditiously to ensure that something is added to the their salaries as soon as possible. "Teachers are ready to work and the government should do the right thing at the right time, to ensure that the right things from the teachers are effectively delivered to the pupils at the right time".

Mr. George Tetteh, and another teacher who only wanted to be referred to as Charles, were both unhappy with the 16% increase offer from the government. They expressed fears that once the government comes out with the 16% salary increase, that will be the end to their agitation for further increases.

It would be recalled that last year, the government increased the salaries of workers by 31%, only to slash it by 16% after three months. It later emerged that the IMF and World Bank put pressure on the government to reverse the salary adjustment if Ghana was to qualify for the HIPC completion decision point.

Armed with this information, the former Minister of Finance, Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo, quickly arranged a meeting with leaders of labour to announce the need to slash the salaries, promising that as soon as Ghana leaves HIPC, the 16% suspended increase would be restored.

This promise was never honoured until recently, when the government wanted to increase salaries and workers protested that instead of salary increases, the suspended salary should be revisited to serve as a basis for the new increases.

Public Agenda can confirm that workers' salaries would be increased by 16% by the end of this month, with a three-month back date from January 2005.

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