Amidst the rising suspense following government’s failure to conclude negotiations with the University Teachers Association of Ghana, Professor Ransford Gyampo of the University of Ghana, is questioning why politicians in the country seemingly enjoy better working conditions than teachers.
UTAG in August agreed to suspend a strike action over poor salary conditions after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with government to pave way for a month of negotiation.
However, following the expiration of the one-month agreed period for negotiations, UTAG in a press release dated September 22, 2021, indicated that government failed to come through as promised for the negotiation.
In a recent post on his Facebook page, Professor Gyampo, who is the General Secretary of UTAG – Legon Branch, chronicled the story behind the Union and government’s failed attempt to reach a common ground on salary for university teachers while alluding to the fact that government over the period has consistently failed to yield to their demands for better working conditions.
“In 2013, the monthly take home for an entry point university teacher, was a cedi equivalent of USD 2,084.”
“In 2021, the same lecturer’s entry point salary has been reduced to a cedi equivalent of USD 997, contrary to the accepted salary administration principle of not varying salaries of workers to their disadvantage, if it’s not for the purposes of punishment.”
“The 2013 entry point of USD 2,084 has reduced and eroded as at 2021 to USD 997 because of depreciation of the cedi, and the fact that the market premium component of the university teacher’s salary, has not been adjusted since 2013, due to government’s refusal to undertake a market survey, whose outcome would lead to an upward adjustment of the market premium component of the salary of the university teacher,” he explained.
The senior political science lecturer further explained that government, despite UTAG’s willingness to make some concessions, have persistently failed to address their concerns including the recent one-month period agreement they agreed to in recent times.
“In the course of the negotiations UTAG demonstrated with empirical evidence that, Ghanaian University lecturers were poorly paid compared to their counterparts in poor countries like Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone. They did not compare their salary structure with their counterparts in Kenya and South Africa m, just to save themselves from monumental embarrassment.”
“Some of us persuaded our colleagues to suspend the strike action and to go back to the negotiation table, not because we were ignorant of the untrustworthiness of some politicians. Rather certain key decent personalities and political gentlemen had shown concern about the plight of UTAG, and given assurances behind the scenes that, they would help in ensuring that the negotiations provide a win-win outcome. We couldn’t have doubted and more importantly, disrespected these personalities, and it is our prayer that they act now to salvage and protect the public trust we built for them, in convincing our colleagues to get back to the negotiation table,” he stated.
In lamenting his frustrations with government’s failure to commit to adress UTAG’s grievances, he pointed out how politicians have always found justification and resources to approve better working conditions for themselves and their likes, while always turning down demands from teachers with the excuse that “there is no money.”
“It appears the politician has all the reasons to improve his salary and conditions of service. Even when there is no money, he knows where to find some to improve his emoluments and that of his appointees. But when it comes to the conditions of service of public servants, and those whose sweat, the politician taxes to generate the income that he enjoys, the refrain is either “there’s no money” or “where are we going to find the money?”. Suddenly, the sources of funding for paying all illegal ex-gratias; the sources of funding to inordinately increase the conditions of service of article 71 officeholders; and the sources of loans to acquire new vehicles for parliamentarians every four years, have mysteriously disappeared and the politician want us to understand the mythically perplexing explanations, that simply says there is no money to improve the conditions of service of public servants, but at the same time, there is more than enough money to make life comfortable for article 71 officeholders.”
He thus questioned the reasoning behind the elevation of the political class above teachers who impart the knowledge into them while serving notice that UTAG may be compelled to embark on a grand strike action if things do not change in the next few days.
“The question is, how did the politician become more important than the teacher and when did the work of the politician and the article 71 officer holder, become more difficult to warrant better conditions of service, than the teacher who taught them? If things do not change in the next couple of days, we are likely to mobilize the mother of all strike actions in Ghana, not against the government, but to advance our course in seeking better conditions of service. If the government chooses to punish us because of the strike, by withholding our salaries, we would endure with our families and the informal sector of the economy.
“If they decide to jail all of us for being defiant, we will go to prison and come. If they jail the UTAG leadership, members will remain on strike in solidarity. If they decide to kill us, the matter would be solved, as we would have eternal rest from the disrespect and bitter maltreatment from politicians. Now, more than ever, we are of the firm belief and conviction that, it is better for us to suffer hardships and punishment today, to secure our future, than to accept pittance today and jeopardize our tomorrow,” he wrote.