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Labour Unions strike: Public varsity students stranded

Disruption of academic work in public universities is likely to last long as four worker unions on strike have vowed not to resume work until government addresses their concerns.

The Finder visited some public universities in Accra to evaluate the situation and find out how it is affecting academic work.

The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), the Tertiary Education Workers Union (TEWU), the Senior Staff Association of Universities of Ghana (SSA-UoG), and the Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA) are on strike demanding payment of off-campus, fuel and car maintenance allowances.

Distance students’ exams on hold at University of Ghana

Upon arrival at University of Ghana-Legon, this paper was informed that the regular students are on vacation.

However, students pursuing distance education programmes were on campus waiting to write the rest of their exams.

President of the University of Ghana- Legon branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Dr. Samuel Nkumbaan, said that students pursuing distance education programmes who are in their second week of writing exams will not be able to complete the semester until there is an agreement on payment of the allowances.

He added that various workshops organised to enhance capacity have all been suspended, and things are likely to continue if they do not receive positive feedback from government.

“Until what is right is done, we will hold on to this strike,” Dr. Nkumbaan said.

Lectures on hold in the 6th week of academic calendar at UPSA

When this paper arrived at the University of Professional Studies in Accra (UPSA), a few students who said they were in level 200 were seen on campus.

The paper was informed that they were writing their end-of-semester examinations.

President of UTAG at UPSA, Dr. Richard Amankwa Fosu, explained that the examination system of the school is handled by an external entity; hence, they can continue their activities because the group supervising the examinations is not on strike.

However, he noted that levels 100, 300, and 400, who are in their sixth week of the academic calendar, will not be able to attend lectures due to the strike.

Dr. Fosu said with fuel prices increasing day by day, the government has decided to withdraw not only the fuel allowance but also the refund given to senior members to commute (Off-Campus) and the allowance for car maintenance.

“With the cost of fuel going up, nobody must be left alone, everyone must be treated fairly,” he said.

The UPSA UTAG President said classes had been interrupted, and no lectures were going on, adding that students were also protesting about the issue.

Public universities’ worker unions fervent on strike action

While at the University of Ghana, the four labour union leaders assembled staff members for a short briefing at the security checkpoint of the main campus gate.

The various union leaders from TEWU, SSA-UoG, and GAUA directed their members to move away from any official duties.

“Until our allowances are restored and we are given what is due us, you must not come to the office. Go home and have fun with your partners,” a Senior Staff of the University of Ghana, Francis Sosoo, said.

The Secretary of TEWU at the University of Ghana, Naa Zakaria Gumah, also indicated that the various unions have designated people to go around campus to ensure every staff obliges to the strike rules.

However, he noted that essential service workers such as security and health personnel will be on duty to ensure maximum protection of the facility and the safety of people.

He called on all staff to heed the union leaders’ call to ensure fairness and equity throughout this period.

“Lecture halls and some hostels have been closed, what will you come and do at work. Sit home and relax, at the right time we will call you back,” Mr. Gumah said.

About the strike

The gravity of the situation is well explained in the “Notice of strike action” published by the National Secretariats of the four Unions.

The document reports a meeting between the National Labour Commission (NLC), the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, and the Minister of Employment and Labour, Relations, Mr. Ignatius Baffour Awah, held at the Ministry of Education conference room.

The NLC asked the parties to engage within one week on payment terms and other related matters.

Still, the Employer failed to present the terms of payment for the Off-Campus and vehicle maintenance allowances, which are the main issues in contention.

Rather, they suggested a 10-member committee to address only the Off-Campus allowance, which the four unions rejected and the meeting ended in a stalemate.

By Thelma Abbey

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