Ghanaian teachers have begun an indefinite strike to press for higher pay, in spite of the attempt by the government to avoid a full-scale action. This strike has been timed to coincide with the start of the West African Senior Schools Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) in the country.
The 250,000 teachers belong to three unions.
Their members, who are either in the classrooms or in offices, are demanding better conditions of service, payment of allowances, payment of car maintenance allowances and resolution of issues that have to do with promotions.
The government has been reeling under pressure from workers in the public sector since it introduced a “single spine salary structure’’ in 2011, under which all public sector workers are to enjoy the same salary for equal work.
Many public sector workers have been pressurising the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, which is migrating workers onto the single spine, for better grading and have disputed their new salaries.
The government said in its budget presented a couple of weeks ago that public sector workers were gobbling as high as 61 per cent of total revenue, a situation that led to an overrun of the budget in 2012.
At an emergency meeting with the leadership of the teachers on Sunday, government appealed to them to exercise restraint while every effort is being made to address the concerns raised by the unions.
A statement at the end of the meeting said government had received every assurance from the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the West African Examination Council (WAEC) that every arrangement pertaining to the conduct of the 2013 WASSCE was on course.
Both GES AND WAEC, therefore, urged students, parents and schools to focus on their preparations for the examinations.
The statement said it was agreed in the meeting that the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) would engage in further consultations with their partners and go back to the government on their decisions.
“Government assures all parties that steps are being taken to address the concerns of the unions and that appropriate directives have been given to the relevant ministries and agencies,’’ the statement said.
Labour experts and some members of the public are accusing the teachers of using the students as bargaining chips.
However, the teachers have dismissed the accusation, saying they have a right to demand what is due for them.