POTAG Satisfied With Discussions

The Polytechnic Teachers Association of  Ghana (POTAG) has expressed satisfaction with the outcome of a meeting held yesterday between the association and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education (PSCE) on the payment of its book and research allowance.

“Though issues were not ultimately finalised at the meeting, we are so far pleased with how negotiations are going. We are yet to meet the Minster of Education on a memorandum of understanding by the PSCE,” the president of POTAG, Mr. James Dugra, told The Ghanaian Times in Accra yesterday.

He said POTAG was likely to return to the classroom should the minister approve of the outcome of the meeting.

The chairman of the committee, Mr. Matthias Puozaa, said POTAG had been very co-operative in the discussion and had showed its willingness to end the strike.

He said the committee would continue to play its role effectively as a mediator and ensure the resolution of the matter within the shortest possible time.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Education, invited POTAG last week by a directive from the Speaker of Parliament to discuss the payment of the lecturers’ book and research allowance which has resulted in their two-month strike.

This follows a petition by the Ghana National Union of Polytechnic Students (GNUPS), pleading with Parliament to intervene in the impasse between the government and their lecturers.

Speaking to The Ghanaian Times in Accra on Friday, the chairman of PSCE, Mr Puozaa, said the decision to meet the lecturers was to address the payment as directed by the Speaker of Parliament.

He said the Speaker, on receipt of the petition, directed the committee to do its best to resolve the matter by arranging an urgent meeting with key stakeholders to discuss the way forward.

The scheduled meeting also followed an unsuccessful meeting between the National Labour Commission (NLC) and POTAG last Wednesday, July 16.

The NLC had invited POTAG for a compulsory arbitration on the orders of the Accra Human Rights High Court last Monday, July 14 but the meeting was stalled as the arbitrators declined to table the motion for deliberations.

The court gave the NLC a 10-day ultimatum to force POTAG into arbitration after describing as unlawful, a directive by NLC asking the lecturers to return to the classroom.

However, the president of POTAG, Mr. Dugra, said the association’s paramount interest was to resolve the issue with the government to enable members to return to the classroom.

He said a fruitful discussion which sought the interest of the association was necessary to convince other members to commence teaching.

The polytechnic teachers have been on strike for almost two months over unpaid book and research allowance, forcing some polytechnics in the country to completely shutdown.

They are demanding payment of allowances for the 2013/2014 academic year.

However, the government has declined to make the payment, basing its action on a decision by the Ministry of Education to scrap the allowances, and replace it with a fund which all tertiary teachers can access, to assist them in conducting research and the purchasing of books.

The decision did not go down well with the lecturers, resulting in a strike.

In an attempt to resolve the matter, the NLC directed the lecturers to return to the classroom while the commission initiated an arbitration process, which POTAG disagreed, thereby forcing the NLC to go to court.

The Accra Human Rights Court, which sat on the case, described as “unlawful,” the directive by the NLC instructing POTAG to call off its strike and return to the classroom.

The court presided over by Justice Essel Kofi Mensah ruled that the NLC’s directive did not follow the Labour Act 651 and Legislative Instrument (LI) 1822 that demand strict adherence to arbitration processes.

It therefore, gave the NLC a 10-day ultimatum to settle the dispute by initiating and finalising arbitration in the impasse between the Ministry of Education and POTAG as required by law.

Meanwhile, following the impasse between POTAG and the Ministry of Education, the GNUPS has mounted pressure on the government to intervene.

Some students, a fortnight ago, thronged the office of the Ministry of Education to submit a petition requesting the government to intervene in the impasse between their lecturers and NLC.

They also petitioned President John Dramani Mahama through the Regional Ministers on the issue, and later sought the intervention of Parliament on the matter.

This was after students had demonstrated in four out of the 10 regions to protest against their lecturers’ strike last month.

The students argue that their lecturers’ strike is impeding their academic work.

By Charles Amankwa

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