The government of Ghana will meet education workers in the country today to find a solution to the ongoing strike action by the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT). This comes in the wake of an appeal by President John Kufuor to graduate teachers to call off their indefinite strike action and go back to the classroom. He urged them to be self-restraining in their demand for better conditions of service and avoid holding the entire country ransom.
Paapa Owusu-Ankomah is Ghana’s Minister of Education, Science and Sports. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about President Kufuor’s call for the striking teachers to return to work.
“The President decided to appeal to NAGRAT, who are on strike, to go back to the classroom, so that the children could be taught. And then, while negotiations go on, he appealed to workers in the public sector to continue to bear with government. And of course he thanked Ghanaians for being forbearing and tolerant,” he said.
Owusu-Ankomah says the government is not insensitive about the plight of workers in the country. Adding it is holding wide consultations on an all-inclusive salary structure that would address the shortcomings of the present pay scale in the country.
“Government has been working on a comprehensive review of the pay structure for sometime. Indeed it started last year and it was amply demonstrated that contrary to what people generally believed to be the position, in actual fact there has been improvement in salaries since the government took over. And that even in dollar terms, public sector workers in Ghana are earning more than they were earning in the year 2000,” Owusu-Ankomah said.
He says the education service and the association of teachers will be meeting today to look at ways to address the grievances of the graduate teachers.
“GNAT (Ghana Association of Teachers) has submitted proposals for salary negotiations for 2007. And that is what we are presently studying. Hopefully we will commence negotiations Monday… GNATS proposal means that salary and salary-related allowances of teachers in the GES (Ghana Education Service) government need about 29 billion cedis (about 30 million dollars) for 2007 to enable their pay… When the two teams meet, I’m sure we will be able to make some progress,” he said.
Owusu-Ankomah is urging the striking graduate teachers to negotiate with government.
“I have appealed to NAGRAT to join GNAT, and let’s negotiate because government just can’t negotiate with different classes of workers in the same industry,” he said.
Meanwhile NAGRAT has expressed its readiness to go to great lengths to defend the just cause of its members for improved service conditions. NAGRAT officials say they would like to hear from the Labor Department, the National Labor Commission (NLC), the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports what national security, public order, freedom and rights of others they were protecting by preventing NAGRAT from obtaining a collective bargaining certificate to protect the interest of its members.
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