Pre-tertiary public school teachers are on an indefinite strike for failure of the government to pay them 20 per cent of their salaries as Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) to mitigate the impact of the ever-rising cost of living in the country.
Led by their unions, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers , the Teachers and Educational Workers Union and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana, the teachers had given June 30, this year as the deadline for the payment of the COLA failure of which they would embark on an indefinite industrial action.
The four teacher unions declared an indefinite nationwide strike effective yesterday because sad enough, the COLA was yet to be paid.
In the early days of last month the Fair Wages Commission made a public announcement that it would meet all the stakeholders, definitely including the unions and government representatives, to discuss if the COLA would be paid.
From all indications nothing fruitful was done, hence the teachers’ strike.
The GNAT, for instance, says all the calls on the government for appropriate action have fallen on deaf ears and since its members can no longer bear the hardship, they have to go on strike.
Relatedly, GNAT has expressed displeasure about the inequality in salaries in the public organisations of this country, which they reject without any reservation.
The Ghanaian Times agrees and shares the displeasure over inequality in remunerations but would like to suspend any discussion on it now and stick to that on the strike.
No one can begrudge the teachers for the strike because it is their democratic right to use it as a tool to call attention to their grievances.
As the Fair Wages Commission has rightly said, there are stakeholders who can resolve the issue.
The problem is that the government side always waits for far too long before officials come in to do the needful.
It must be pointed out that that attitude is irritating just as it worsens the matters.
It can be interpreted in many ways, including show of disrespect to public-sector workers.
Meanwhile, these are the same people the government needs for the smooth running of all sectors of the economy for it to take credit for good governance.
As things stand now, the teachers have withdrawn their services in both the classroom and outside it; that is to say even non-teaching staff would not work.
There are a number of repercussions, including loss of instruction hours which directly affects performance of students.
Besides, those whose livelihoods depend on the schools such as traders who sell food and other things to the students are going to lose incomes.
However, it can be counted as joy that the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations says it has invited the leadership of the teacher unions to a meeting over their demands.
The Ghanaian Times appeals to all the teacher unions to respond to the invitation however later it has come.
There is the need to dialogue to come to consensus to resolve the matter amicably and immediately because negative happenings in the education sector have both short and long-term effects that undermine national development, especially with regard to the country’s human resource development.
Let the government therefore show good faith in dealing with the teachers by being transparent about what it can give them and give it at the agreed time rather than the status quo, where government actions portray a mockery of workers.
The timely resolution of the teachers’ strike can stop the tertiary education teacher unions like the University Teachers Association of Ghana from embarking on any similar strike because they would see dialogue as the trendy tool to use in seeking demands.