Teacher organizations over the years appear to be at one point or the other at the forefront in a battle, not only for the soul of education but also for the interest of their members.
Historical records of strike actions embarked on by Ghana’s National Association of Graduate Teachers’ (NAGRAT) indicate that teachers arrears are somewhat overlooked over time; a major contributing factor to these strikes.
2006 strike action
The National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) embarked on immense strike action in 2006 at the beginning of the 2006/2007 academic year to demand that they are paid the same salaries as nurses and doctors who have similar qualifications.
The strike action which was supposed to last for seven days exceeded the stipulated period for weeks due to Government and the Ghana Education Service’ inability to resolve issues with members of the association.
2008 NAGRAT strike again
In 2008, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) declared a nationwide strike again concerning their unpaid arrears by Government.
Eric Angel Cabonu who was the Regional Chairman of the Association then in a press conference told Journalists that the association was set to teach students the wrong things in class if the government refused to pay no attention to their salary demands.
According to him “, what meaningful life does one expect a teacher on a low salary to live in order to have the peace of mind to teach and train future leaders of this country”.?”
2010 NAGRAT three-day strike
Christian Addai-Poku, former President of NAGRAT announced on Wednesday, March 3rd that the association was striking due to some unlocked GH¢10 million from Government to the GES for the payment of all outstanding arrears owed by members.
After three days of strike action, the Ghana Education Service fully convinced NAGRAT members and paid their entitlements.
Members of the NAGRAT stayed out of the classroom for nearly a week, in protest against discrepancies in their salaries following their migration onto the Single Spine Salary Structure.
But following an introduction of the Teachers ‘Retention Premium which is 15% of the gross Single Spine Salary Structure to be paid to all teachers and selected categories of the non-teaching staff with effect from March 11, 2011.
In January 2013 NAGRAT striked again to resolve all outstanding issues relating to their grievances concerning their outstanding arrears.
The issues included payment of vehicle maintenance allowance, the market premium for teachers under the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) and annual incremental credits for teachers.
Others were the non-negotiation of categories two and three allowances for teachers and compensation for the supervision and invigilation of the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Last year April, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), declared a strike over equal purpose “non-payment” of the over GHc50 million arrears.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, April 4th, President of the Association, Angel Cabonu, said the association would no longer tolerate assurances from the NPP government, indicating that the strike comes after previous threats in December 2017 and January 2018.
According to him, the association had no alternative but to advise themselves. The leadership of NAGRAT decided that all NAGRAT members at the pre-tertiary level should lay down their tools and abstain from work.
Angel Cabonu said NAGRAT had been left unsatisfied and sickened by the government’s bearing in the matter of the arrears which dates back to 2013, stating, the government was only toying with the union.
New Strike Action; 2019
A few weeks ago, NAGRAT threatened a strike over the Ghana Education Service’s decision to deduct GHc10 as insurance from teachers’ salaries.
In an address delivered by the president of NAGRAT, Eric Angel Cabonu, at a press conference held at the NAGRAT lyceum on 5th September 2019, he noted that the association is again embarking on nationwide strike due to issues “negatively affecting the Ghanaian teacher”.
NAGRAT bemoaned the inability of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Public Services Commission to facilitate their promotions.
According to Angel Cabonu, the failure of the Public Service Commission to amend their records has led to delays of promotional interviews.
Read his full speech below:
Ladies and gentlemen of the Media, about a month ago, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) held a Press Conference to put before the general public issues that are negatively affecting the Ghanaian Teacher.
Notable, among the issues raised was the Newly Introduced Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) acquired by the Public Services Commission which has brought a lot of problems and pains to the Ghanaian Teacher, in the following areas. Promotion letters
Today, teachers who have been promoted as far back as three (3) years ago have not been given their promotion letters indicating the effective date of their promotions. This will affect their chance of progressing in the GES.
Teachers who have additional responsibilities besides their teaching duties have not had their responsibility allowances restored after they were promoted. Some teachers have suffered this problem for the past three years.
Difficulty in reinstating teachers
Some teachers who have completed their study leave with or without pay, have had difficulty being reinstated into the Ghana Education Service (GES) and even when they are reinstated, they are still being paid their pre-study leave salaries.
Delay in a promotion interview
The Service condition of the GES and indeed the Public Service, grants that a teacher is eligible for interview after serving on his or her current rank for four (4) years. Due to the myriad of problems bedeviling promotion in the GES, teachers have stayed on their ranks for more than five to six years without being invited for promotion interviews. A huge backlog has been created as a result of teachers waiting to be invited for promotion.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Media, it is a nightmare to be transferred or to seek transfer in the GES these days. The GES is unable to effect genuine transfer requests due to impediments placed in it’s path by the HRMIS of the Public Service Commission. This has brought untold pressure and hardship on teachers in the service.
WE CALL ON THE PUBLIC SERVICES COMMISSION TO REMOVE THE OBSTACLES IT HAS PLACED ON THE PATH OF THE GHANA EDUCATION SERVICE
It looks like the Government has suspended its obligation of paying salary arrears. Yet, day in day out, new arrears are being created. The promotion issues and salary upgrade problems, mentioned earlier, have created another batch of salary arrears. Teachers who for one reason or the other have had their salaries stopped, will have to live without being paid for months despite the fact that they report regularly to duty. Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) being operated by the Public Service Commission is incompatible with the scheme of service of the GES. The Teacher Unions since inception of the HRMIS, have complained about the system to no avail.
Our Collective Agreement expired about eight years ago. Over the period, a lot have changed. Today, teachers are working longer hours without extra compensation. Calls by the Teacher Unions to commence negotiations for a new Collective Agreement have fallen on deaf ears. The leadership of NAGRAT can no longer fold its arms and watch as teachers suffer such pains and neglect.
Leadership informs the general public and indeed all teachers that from today 5TH September, 2019 we have decided to lay down our tools. NAGRAT here declares a STRIKE. All teachers in schools that have already reopened should lay down their tools and stay out of school. Those that are yet to reopen, must stay out of the schools when school reopens. We call on all our teachers to be steadfast in this industrial action. Thank you.