The leadership of three striking teachers unions, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) represented by its President, Phillipa Larsen, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) represented by its president, Angel Cabonou and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers represented by its president, King Ali Awudu have redeemed the image of Ghanaian Teachers in a three-day strike action to drive home their demand for the payment of their legacy arrears.
Ellis Ferdinand’s Analysis
An analysis by EducationGhana’s Ellis Ferdinand throws more light on the historical facts regarding teachers’ strikes, of which he compared the happenings of 2006 strike and the 2019 strike action.
The teachers were being subjected to all kinds of ‘humiliations from all manner of individuals from the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service as well as their own colleague teachers who for one reason or the other, decided to sabotage the strike action.
There was a GHC49million document which nearly frustrated the strike action.
But in all these humiliations, the teachers were RESOLUTE!
The Strike Action
The three major Teacher Unions in the Ghana Education Service Unanimously declared a nationwide strike effective Monday, December 9, 2019, over legacy salary arrears of 2012 to 2016 which ended on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, after the National Labour Commission went for a court order to call off the strike action, describing it as illegal.
The three Unions for the first time in so many years had a joint press conference to declare a joint strike action which saw a majority of teachers at the Ghana Education Service adhering to the call.
The Unions who were left with no option but to exhibit the essence of their existence were also in the process of bringing back a long term mistrust which their members mostly accused them of.
The members of the unions mostly accuse their leaders of being ”in bed” with previous and current government, a situation the teachers believed had crippled their effort to fight for what belongs to them, for so many years.
During the Strike action, there was a document which suggests that the teachers were being paid some GHC49million on December 11, 2019, and was published by the major media outlets.
That document nearly frustrated the strike action by the Teachers.
Meanwhile , that document happens to be a document released in September 2019 for the payment of allowances and grants and has nothing to do with the Teachers’ Legacy Salary Arrears.
The strike action, which began Monday, December 9, 2019, saw some comments from their employer, which they described as distasteful.
Comment from the Minister of Education, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, which suggests the main opposition National Democratic Congress was behind the strike action, was one that the teachers spoke against.
Veteran Journalist Abdul Malik Kweku Baako said the Minister of Education failed to exercise emotional intelligence by accusing the opposition National Democratic Congress(NDC) of being behind the teachers’ strike.
The Chairman of the Ghana Education Service Council, Mr Micheal Nsowah, also said on radio (Adom FM) that the decision of the Ghana Education Service to pay the legacy arrears was out of its pity for the teachers.
He further threatened the teachers to call off their supposed illegal strike or get sacked for new teachers to be employed.
This statement was familiar to a decision by the Ghana Education Service in 2006, led by Mr Michael Nsowah as its Director-General to freeze Teachers’ Salaries after NAGRAT declared a similar strike which was described as the KWAME ALORVI -OSAFO MARFO STRIKE OF 2006.
The 2006 strike action by NAGRAT saw other Unions supporting in solidarity,a situation that saw their October-November salaries freeze until October 2008 when the then President J. A. Kufuor directed the release of the frozen October 2006 salaries.
Kwame Alorvi, the then president of NAGRAT said the President’s intervention was a welcomed news for its members who had not been treated fairly by the Ghana Education Service (GES) Council.
The Public Relations Manager of the Ministry of Education, Mr Ekow Vincent Assafual also said that Teacher Unions cannot declare strike for all teachers since Government did not owe all teachers under the Ghana Education Service (GES).
Responding to the representative of the Teachers Unions on Joy TV morning News on 9th December 2019, the PRO said, most of the teachers are going to school because they have been paid by Government.
The National Labour Commission who concluded the battle between the Unions and their Employer took the unions to court in their bid to call off the strike.
Following the declaration of the strike by NAGRAT as illegal by the National Labour Commission (NLC), in 2006, the GES Council directed that the October-November salaries of teachers who went on strike be frozen.
However, an apology by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) led to the release of the salaries of its members who had joined the strike.
Mr Alorvi said none of the other Labour unions or groups such as the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the health workers group that had gone on strike before NAGRAT during the period had been asked to apologise for their action.
In the teaching profession and other institutions, the alleged number one enemy of a teacher is a colleague teacher.
This statement was demonstrated by some few teachers who tried to sabotage the process.
At the Archbishop Porter Girls’ Senior High School in Sekondi-Takoradi for instance, the Headmistress of the school, Charlotte Asiedu Musah, told Citi News that classes have been ongoing as the teachers’ unions were yet to inform the school about any strike.
When she went on her rounds, she said: “teachers were in the classrooms teaching.”
After ‘fighting’ these battles within three days, teachers began showing appreciation to their Union leaders for taking bold steps to defend the legacy salary arrears.
They strike also showed some appreciable level of Trust in the Union leaders.
The Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) says the last batch of 1,200 staff of the Ghana Education Service (GES) who qualify for the legacy arrears would be paid by Thursday, December 19, 2019.
That figure will bring to a total of 88,756, staff qualified to be paid under the arrears.
So far, a total of 87,566 names validated and approved for payment have been paid, Graphic Online has gathered.
The President of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Phillipa Larsen has said that by Monday, all teachers should go to School in respect of the High Court order as the leadership battles the issue out with the National Labour Commission (NLC) in Court.
Phillipa Larsen who spoke with Captain Smart on Adom FM, an Accra based radio station on Thursday morning, December 12, 2019, said the Unions shall respect the High Court which compels them to go back to work.
Phillipa Larsen said the unions shall never have any engagement with the National Labour Commission going forward.
She said the NLC has shown that they cannot resolve issues concerning Education Section Unions.
She said their decision to go to court was an implication that the NLC can no longer handle issue pertaining to teacher unions.
She emphasized that moving forward, the Unions shall no longer have any engagement with the NLC unless they meet in court.
”We have nothing doing with the Labour Commission again. Anytime they would want to have any engagement with us,they should go to the court for an order to invite us so that we all meet in court” She said.