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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UTAG Is Being Unfair to Students and Parents-Source 

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A highly placed source in the labour industry has suggested that the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) may be acting unfairly in its current strike posture.


The source has suggested UTAG’s current posture was only targeted at renegotiating already agreed positions on Base pay and Market premium, contrary to formerly agreed positions adopted by the association and the employer.

Explaining, the source stated that early in 2019, Government started negotiations with UTAG on a list of conditions of service. The general framework for the negotiations was agreed as follows;

  1. All non-payroll items such as marking allowances, invigilation allowances etc, were to be negotiated between the local UTAG branches and their respective University authorities.
  2.  All pay-roll items such as salary, rent allowance, owner occupier allowance, interim market premium and non-basic allowance, responsibility allowances, fuel, utilities, entertainment allowances, security/sanitation allowances, vehicle maintenance, off campus allowance, research allowance and book allowance were to be negotiated between UTAG and the government negotiating team.

The source stated that on the 16th of June 2021, Govt and UTAG signed an MOU satisfactorily resolving issues related to the conditions of service of university teachers. 

“The only matter outstanding at the time as per the MOU of June 2021 was the matter of research allowance,” the source stated.

Further to that position, on 18th October 2021 UTAG and Govt concluded negotiations on the only outstanding matter of research allowance for University teachers. 

“The conclusion was to increase the research allowance to 1600 USD equivalent by 2024. This is after the Akufo-Addo Government had upped it already from 500 cedis in 2018. This will mean an increase from 500 cedis to 1600 dollars (9,600 cedis) by the current administration,” the source stated. 

This means that by 2024, the research allowance would have been increased more than 19 times higher than the 2018 position of GHC500.00, or by 1920%! 

The source stated that it was during this 18th October negotiation, which was supposed to be on the matter of research allowance only, that UTAG then sought to bring back two issues which had earlier been agreed upon, for renegotiation. 

“These were matters of Base Pay and Market Premium,” the source stated. 

The source recalled that during the initial rounds of negotiations, UTAG had proposed a negotiation of the base pay. 

“Unfortunately, base pay is negotiated at Public sector joint negotiation committee. UTAG was advised that UTAG alone, could not negotiate this by themselves. It will have to be negotiated by the joint committee. Secondly the base pay had already been negotiated and locked in for 2021 and 2022 fiscal years by all public sector labour groups that are on the single spine. It was thus additionally impossible to re-open and negotiate for UTAG only. It was made clear to UTAG members when they sought to re-open this matter, that the subject of base pay could therefore not be renegotiated through this avenue,” the source stated.

The source further explained that on the matter of market premium, it was agreed, that in accordance with the Government white paper on Market premiums issued in 2013, the question of market premium can only be discussed after the completion of a new labor market survey. “This survey is what will inform any decisions on the question of a market premium. UTAG intimated that if a market survey was not completed and its report made available to them by 31st December 2021, they will call a new strike.  Government caused a survey to be completed and its attendant report delivered on 6th January 2022. The purpose of this survey was to provide a basis for a determination of whether or not the question of Market Survey can be revisited. A copy of the report was made available to UTAG on 6th January 2022 for their study and position paper. UTAG however declared a strike on the 10th January 2022 and have till date not submitted their position paper. Negotiations have therefore stalled since,” the source lamented. 

“Many labour watchers have wondered Why UTAG will still proceed on strike when the very thing they requested for was eventually delivered albeit a few days late. Why will a group that agreed to make its position on the report available for further engagement, refuse to deliver its position paper and instead call a strike, which strike halts all further negotiations? Some analysts argue that some members of UTAG are obviously instigating the group to disrupt the academic calendar no matter what overtures are made to them or what is done to respond to reasonable demands,” the source stated. 

The source stated that the National Labour Commission ruled on January 13, 2022 that the UTAG should allow negotiations to legally resume. 

“This can only be done by calling off the strike since the law does not allow negotiations during an illegal strike. UTAG has refused to respect this ruling. 

“Again many labour watchers are wondering why Academics are blatantly refusing to respect institutions and their rulings. Those who teach the principle of respect for institutions are expected to respect the institutions themselves,” the source observed.

The source said that UTAG is now saying, while awaiting a decision on whether or not market premium is up for re-negotiation (which will be determined by a discussion of the labor market survey report, which UTAG refuses to discuss), Government should peg their interim market premium at 114% of their 2022 base pay. 

“This demand is at variance with the 2013 govt white paper on market premium which put interim market premium at an absolute nominal value,” the source stated.

He stated that the Government team has reminded the striking teachers that, Market premium can only be examined when negotiations resume after their strike and they make their position known on the results of the Labor Market Survey. 

“Until then, the 2013 White Paper says it should be frozen at the 114% of 2012 base pay level. Additionally, the White Paper (Paragraph 3.5.1 and 3.5.2) states that even when a review is to be effected to market premium it should be applied to scarce skills only and not as a wholesale application. The question of scarcity is to be determined from the market survey. Indeed their demand of making market premium 114% of base pay flies against Paragraphs 3.4 and 3.5 of the Govt position since 2013 as attached.

“For the current impasse to be resolved, it is important for UTAG to call off its strike and get back to the negotiating table with their position paper on the Labour Market Survey. This will enable a dispassionate decision to be made on whether or not market premium is up for renegotiation.

“UTAG should be encouraged by all meaning Ghanaians to stop this exercise of putting students at a disadvantage and threatening to shut down universities simply because they don’t want to abide by the processes laid down by law,” the source stated.

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