Education

Controller freezes CETAG members’ salaries

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The Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) has frozen the August salaries of members of the Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana (CETAG) following their ongoing strike.

The action was an implementation of an earlier directive by the Ministry of Education to CAGD to freeze the salaries of the striking teachers for the month of August.

The President of CETAG, Prince Obeng-Himah, who confirmed the story to the Daily Graphic yesterday, said members of the association faced the reality when they visited their respective banks to withdraw their August salaries.

“Yes, there is evidence that the non-validation has taken effect.

When people went to the bank, they were not paid for the month of August,” he stated.

Mr Obeng-Himah, however, described the action as unlawful, especially where it deprived members of their economic rights as workers in the country.

Due process
The National Labour Commission (NLC), he said, had not pronounced the industrial action of CETAG as illegal because “we followed due process and so it is not in the place of the Ministry of Education to arrogate to itself the powers of the NLC to make pronouncements or determination on the legitimacy or otherwise of strikes.”

“The inaction of the Ministry of Education should not be tolerated in our labour system because it has no legs to stand on,” he insisted.

Mr Obeng-Himah maintained that the strike embarked upon by members of CETAG was legitimate.

He said the matter would be dealt with step by step and that CETAG would go to the NLC tomorrow to listen to what the commission would say on the stalemate.

“If the NLC’s ruling is not satisfactory, we are open to several options, including going to the Appeals Court or Supreme Court.

So, we are determined to follow through to ensure that justice is served tutors of the colleges of education,” he emphasised.

Mr Obeng-Himah said the association had reported the issue in writing to the NLC and therefore expected the commission to address it.

Apart from the arrears and conditions of service, he said, the association also expected the NLC’s directive to the government some months ago to be complied with.

“We have the legal right and economic right and that the Ministry of Education needs the teachers and the teachers also need the ministry and so there should not be a situation like somebody is showing someone where power lies.

“We want to maintain that the inaction of the Ministry of Education is completely lawless and unacceptable and the earlier if rescinds its decision and pay the withheld salaries of the tutors, the better for all of us,” he said.

Members of CETAG embarked on an industrial strike from August 1, 2023, to impress upon the government to adhere to their negotiated conditions of service.

But the Ministry of Education last week directed CAGD not to process the August salaries and allowances of members of CETAG, who are currently on strike.

A letter dated August 21, 2023, and signed by the Director of Administration of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), Saaka Sayiti, to the CAGD said: “Any arrears before August 2023 should be validated and paid”.

“We write at the instance of the Minister of Education, requesting you not to pay monthly salary and allowances for the month of August 2023 to the teaching staff of all the 46 colleges of education.”

However, a statement dated July 10, 2023, and jointly signed by the President of CETAG, Prince Obeng-Himah, and the acting Secretary, Thomas Amponsah, said the industrial action followed the non-compliance of the government to implement the National Labour Commission’s (NLC) Arbitral Award Orders and the negotiated conditions of service since May 2, 2023.

“The leadership of CETAG wishes to serve notice of our intention to withdraw our services across the 46 public colleges of education effective Tuesday, August 1, 2023, if by Monday, July 31, 2023, the government has not implemented our negotiated allowances together with the one-off payment of one month’s basic salary based on CETAG’s salary grade as compensation for additional duty performed in 2022 payable to tutors per NLC’s Arbitral Award Order given on May 2, 2023,” it said.

The decision of the association, it said, had been necessitated by the fact that from August 2021, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), representing our employer, deliberately prolonged its negotiations for new conditions of service for more than a year till the NLC intervened with a compulsory arbitration following CETAG’s strike in January 2023.

At the end of the compulsory arbitration, the statement said the NLC issued its Arbitral Award Orders on May 2, 2023, granting CETAG members a new condition of service with effect from January 1, 2023.

“Following the NLC’s Compulsory Arbitral Award, the parties proceeded to sign off the negotiation agreement, which has been communicated to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) by FWSC since May 26, 2023, for approval and implementation.

“Surprisingly, the MoF has refused to act on the FWSC’s letter, together with the NLC’s Arbitral Orders, in spite of letters we have written to the MoF requesting the immediate implementation of the negotiated agreement. Practically, CETAG members cannot continue to survive on expired 2020 CoS in this biting economy of Ghana,” it said.

It cautioned that at the beginning of the 2023/2024 academic year, its members would no longer continue with what it called “the killer all-year-round academic calendar” being implemented in the public colleges of education even if members were given all the money in the world as compensation.

It said the practice was softly killing teachers and that “leadership is, therefore, calling on stakeholders to adopt the in-out-out-in system to let all cohorts of students remain in school and complete the academic year together to enable tutors to take their inter-semester break.”

“After all, no law says all tertiary students should be accommodated on campus,” he added.

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