A labour expert, Austin Gamey has descended heavily on the two leading teacher bodies on their decision to go on strike on Monday whilst negotiation is still underway, accusing them of acting in bad faith.
He blamed the teachers for sidestepping the laid down procedure in resolving labour grievances as stipulated under the Labour Act.
He told Joy News for them to have timed their industrial action to coincide with the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations, the teachers are clearly using the school children as the bargaining chip.
At a joint press conference by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), the teachers were emphatic they will withdraw their services on March 18.
The associations are peeved with the Ghana Education Service management and Government, for what they describe as gross disregard for its concerns and a breach of trust. They identified non negotiation of new proposals of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, freezing of annual increments, non-payments of vehicle maintenance allowance and a delay in addressing outstanding issues as their major concerns.
President of GNAT, Samuel Doe Alobia told Joy News the government has taken teachers for granted for far too long, saying their members would not be convinced to stay in the classrooms if the leadership go back to “sing the same song” to them that government is keen on solving their problems.
“If the stakeholders know the value of the needs of these children, they would have quickly responded to the issues raised by their teachers, and because they seemed not to be interested in what they are saying, that is why we have to take this opportunity to strike now when the iron is hot so that everybody would see that this time we are not going to give in to the government”.
But Mr Austin Gamey told Joy News their timing is equally frustrating, adding that it would “hold our children to ransom, holding them as a shield, holding them as a bargaining chip. This is a complete hijacking of the children…it is not fair.”
Though he said he appreciated their concerns, he also charged them to direct their grievances to the appropriate quarters – the National Labour Commission, which is independent of the government – to have their concerns addressed.
He explained that if one party fails to follow agreed procedures, Section 104 of Labour Law Act gives room for the other party to report to the National Labour Commission who would then give the parties 14 days to complete negotiation.
“Whichever way, we have labour law that we must respect, I think they (teachers) know it…why are you making the children a scapegoat?…the labour law does not permit that one of the parties would be on strike under Section 127 Subsection 3. You cannot be on strike, put handcuff on the hands of one of the parties, and adversely compel them to come and yield to your wishes.
“That is unfair labour practice and it is not supposed to be allowed in this country, we are living in the 21st century.”
He called on the Labour Commission to summon the two parties over the weekend to avert the intended strike.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education says it is surprised by the attitude of the teachers.
Public Relations Officer of the ministry, Paul Krampah told Joy FM’s Top Story on Friday that the Ministry has been working around the clock to address the teachers’ concerns. He said the ministry has been meeting officials of GNAT and NAGRAT over the past weeks.
“We at the ministry are very much surprised that while negotiations are going on, our colleagues have decided to embark on strike action.”
The Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service would issue a statement on what the government has been able to do so far in meeting the demands of the teachers, he said.