Education

UTAG issues strike threat over unpaid allowances

The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) is threatening to withdraw its services if the government fails to pay the Book and Research allowance agreed upon.

The Unions leaders at a press briefing in Accra accused their employer of hoarding payment of their book and research allowances.

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They also accused the government of intending to reverse an upward adjustment of their maintenance and off campus allowances.

They contend that, this is contrary to a Memorandum of Understanding they signed on June 16, 2021.

“The concerned Labour Unions are admonishing all the rank and file of their membership to remain calm and steadfast, that it will resist any attempt by the Employer to vary the terms of their agreed Conditions of Service without due process. The Unions also take this opportunity to advice the Employer to be circumspect as we do not take delight in disrupting the academic calendar, nevertheless, when compelled to do so, we will not hesitate. Therefore, the Employer should immediately rescind its intension to vary our conditions of service, else, teaching, and related activities on all the campuses will be withdrawn with effect from Wednesday, 5th October 2022,” they said at a press conference.

Read full press statement below:

Distribution:

All UTAG Branches

All GAUA Branches

All SSA-UoG Branches

All TEWU-GH Branches

All Media Houses

BLATANT UNILATERAL VARIATION OF AGREED CONDITIONS OF SERVICE IN THE FACE OF HOSTILE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press.

The Leadership of the four (4) Labour Unions in the Public Universities in Ghana, namely, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA), Tertiary Education Workers Union of Ghana (TEWU-GH), and the Senior Staff Association of Universities of Ghana (SSA-UoG), is grateful to you for coming to cover this all-important Press Conference.

This press conference is about the collective interest of four (4) labour unions whose working conditions have been overly varied at their blindside with the intention of selective application of the same Conditions unbeknown to them by the Employer and therefore has necessitated this meeting.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me walk you through certain recent developments that has culminated in this state of affair and therefore, has negatively affected our members.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Labour Unions took notice of a letter from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on the revision of fuel allowance payable to eligible staff in public and technical universities with reference number BD/CMU/22/08/SAL. 1, and dated 5th August 2022 and signed by the Deputy Minister of Finance, Hon. Abena Osei-Asare (MP) on behalf of the Minister of Finance, which was duly copied to the Director-General of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC).

We also refer to another letter from the Ministry of Finance on the subject “ALLOWANCES PAYABLE ON THE PAYROLL OF PUBLIC UNIVERISITIES” with reference number BD/CMU/22/03/SAL.1, dated 16th March 2022 and again signed by the Deputy Minister of Finance, Hon. Abena Osei-Asare (MP) on behalf of the Minister of Finance, which was addressed to the Director-General of GTEC.

Lastly, reference is made to previous letters from UTAG to the Minister of Finance and the Executive Secretary, National Labour Commission (NLC) with reference numbers UTAG/NAT/2022/EM-002 and UTAG/NAT/2022/EM-007, dated 11th April 2022 and 15th June 2022, respectively, both of which were copied to GTEC. In the said letters, UTAG sought clarification on the basis for the unilateral variation in the Conditions of Service of the University Teachers, and by extension, all workers of the Public Universities, without the laid down procedures for negotiations. Unfortunately, UTAG did not receive a response from the Minister of Finance and again response in respect of NLC’s directive, where the NLC gave the Minister of Finance seven (7) working days to respond was to no avail.

In UTAG’s previous letters, UTAG stated unequivocally that per the signed Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the Employer and UTAG on 16th June 2021, the Employer agreed to review Fuel Allowance bi-annually with the approved rates and the first date review should have occurred in December 2021 but did not happen in spite of the reminders sent to the Employer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, contrary to the MoA under reference, the Minister of Finance, per its own letter with reference number BD/CMU/22/03/SAL.1 dated 16th March 2022, again, directed that Fuel Allowance and other allowances that depended on ex-pump price for fuel, which was, hitherto, pegged to number of gallons has now been converted and determined in absolute rates without recourse to any of the Labour Unions in the Public Universities.

Thus, we totally rejected this absolute rate as the procedure for taking such a decision was not followed and, the status quo should remain until agreed at a negotiation. Again, the Employer ignored the concerns of the Unions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, after a long delay in respect of the bi-annual review, the Minister of Finance, in a letter dated 5th August 2022, gave approval for the adjustment of ex-pump price of fuel and, consequently, the unit cost pegged at GH¢10.99 per litre with effect from 1st July 2022 for all eligible staff after more than a year of the signing of the MoA.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, one would have thought that having the agreement followed through at long last on the part of the Employer, the sleeping dogs would have remained in their sleep but nevertheless it has come to our knowledge that, henceforth, there is going to be disparities in the implementation of this adjusted ex-pump rate, which is contrary to the existing practice, notably for Vehicle Maintenance and Off-Campus Allowances. The disparities here being that it is going to be applicable only to duty bearers of our universities. This action is not only unacceptable but creates a class system, like the famous George Owel’s Animal Farm and discounting that the other members of staff and the Duty bearer both go to the same marketplace.

We wish to put on record that the Vehicle Maintenance and Off-Campus Allowances, payable to eligible staff in Public Universities in Ghana, are paid on a base rate of GH¢4.99 per litre until June 2021 when it was adjusted to GH¢6.05 per litre. So, what has changed for this blatant disregard for the agreed laid down procedures.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the intended reversal of the recent upward adjustments from GH¢10.99 to GH¢6.05 is just not reflective of the economic conditions at the pump and therefore unthinkable for the Employer even to conceive such an idea to do so. UTAG and her sister Unions would wish to entreat the Employer to thread carefully so as not to mar the already jeopardised tertiary education front, as the Labour Unions would not countenance such fragrant disregard of agreed modalities of Conditions of Service.

We wish to state that the Ministry of Finance, through GTEC, should ensure that the conditions subsequent to the support of staff welfare in extricating them from economic hostilities will not disadvantage them relative to the Conditions of Service of members of Labour Unions in Public Universities. We are by this Press Conference registering our displeasure on the directive and requesting that under no circumstance should Vice-Chancellors, through their Finance Directors, implement such by applying the Gh¢10.99 ex-pump approved rate ONLY to Fuel Allowance without considering Vehicle Maintenance and Off-Campus Allowances. Failure to address these essential concerns will result in the possible total withdrawal of our services across all Public Universities in Ghana.

Ladies and Gentlemen, off late it appears to us that GTEC is behaving like a “headmaster” with postering that does not augur well in the public universities’ front and is being reminded to focus on its core mandate and leave Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to exercise that oversight responsibility of salary and conditions of service administration in latter’s ambit.

Ladies and gentlemen, following the suspension of the UTAG Strike action in March 2022, the NEC of UTAG promised to monitor and police the full implementation of all agreements with the Employer, and to work with clear timelines and roadmaps to ensure that all promises and agreements are respected. However, it is sad to note that there are still challenges with the implementation of the Online Teaching Support Allowance (OTSA), and Nonpayroll Allowances are still outstanding. This situation has made the University Teacher worse off in the face of the present precarious economic situation we find ourselves in and yet the Employer is bent to derailing the little gains achieved.

The concerned Labour Unions, namely, UTAG, GAUA, SSA-UoG, and TEWU-GH, are by this presser asking the Employer what has been done to our CoS, especially so when 2023 is just 3 months away. What has happened to the agreement at the National Labour Conference in Kwahu where there was an agreement for the Employer to implement the Market Premium and/or review the Single Spine Salary Structure in 2023, to help address concerns of poor Conditions of Services of the Public Sector Workers in full?

Again, we have also observed that the implementation of the GTEC document on Harmonised Allowances has made several University Administrators and Professional worse off, which is against the labour laws. This requires urgent attention for redress.

There is a 2019 document, which talks about implementation of Category 2 & 3 Allowances in public institutions. The Labour Unions in the Public Universities vehemently rejected some of the directives, including that on Overtime Allowance. Since then, the Public Universities have had no problem on the Overtime Allowance until recently the Audit Service wrote to the University Managements to stop paying Overtime Allowance to eligible Staff. This is another anomaly that requires urgent redress.

Lastly, the payment of the Book and Research Allowances (BRA) for this year has delayed. This continued delay is also causing unnecessary apprehension on the various campuses. The Employer should remember that we are in a new academic year, for which reason the continuous delay in the payment is unacceptable.

Per the agreement that led to the suspension of the UTAG industrial action, the 2021/2022 BRA were slated to be paid at the end of August 2022. Unfortunately, to date, they have not been paid. The constant follow-ups have only yielded evasive excuses and typical of the reactionary and less proactive leadership style, all the relevant ministries and their heads, including Finance, National Security, Education, and Employment, and the National Labour Commission are looking on, and waiting for us to explode before they act.

We know the language that easily sinks in their psyche, and we will speak it in one (1) week if they fail to heed to their own agreement with us.

The concerned Labour Unions are admonishing all the rank and file of their membership to remain calm and steadfast, that it will resist any attempt by the Employer to vary the terms of their agreed Conditions of Service without due process. The Unions also take this opportunity to advice the Employer to be circumspect as we do not take delight in disrupting the academic calendar, nevertheless, when compelled to do so, we will not hesitate. Therefore, the Employer should immediately rescind its intension to vary our conditions of service, else, teaching, and related activities on all the campuses will be withdrawn with effect from Wednesday, 5th October 2022.

Thank you very much.

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