From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi
Latest information reaching your authoritative newspaper, The Chronicle, concerning the recent strike action embarked upon by members of the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) is that it is likely to re-ignite the debate over whether the teaching staff were justified in holding the government and the entire country to ransom.
The Chronicle has stumbled upon information revealing how rectors of the various polytechnics in the country, managed to convince the Polytechnic Governing Councils to approve mouth-watering recommendations on improved working conditions for themselves, at a time members of POTAG were crying foul over poor conditions of service.
The rectors, who are supposed to fight for staffs of polytechnic institutions in the country at the highest level, betrayed the lecturers under their care, by secretly making recommendations to the government, through the Polytechnic Governing Councils, to approve upward adjustments in salaries and other allowances due them.
Documents in the possession of this paper bring to bear, how the rectors and members of the Governing Council nicodemously held a meeting between March 26-28, this year, at a remote place in the Greater Accra Region, where they made sumptuous recommendations to the government on how to improve the working conditions of its members, without a word put in for lecturers in the classrooms in the 10 state-run polytechnics.
The rectors and members of the council reportedly tip-toed to the breezy Forest Hotel at Dodowa, where they held the three-day meeting to deliberate on upward adjustments of salaries and other allowances such as responsibility and entertainment allowance, salary supplement allowance, household allowance, domestic servants allowance and rector’s professional allowance.
Other allowances include fuel, night allowance, medical allowance (rector and family), book and research, annual leave, overseas leave, warm clothing allowance, vehicle allowance, death benefit allowance (deaths of spouses, children and rector), accommodation engagement, accommodation of disengagement, and air travel allowances.
Similar conditions were also made for registrars and finance officers of the polytechnics in the country during the three-day meeting.
The documents, which have raised eyebrows within the rank and file of POTAG since its leakage, made recommendations of increases in allowances of various percentages for the members of the board, rectors, registrars, and finance officers.
For instance, the rectors requested for 80% increment in responsibility allowance, 50% increase in entertainment allowance, an increase of salary supplement allowance from GH¢1,200 to GH¢1,500, GH¢360 per month as household allowance, GH¢300 or 20% of basic salary, whichever is higher, as domestic assistants allowance, and 200% of basic salary as rector’s responsibility allowance.
Other pegs include 110% increase in night allowance, from GH¢90 to GH¢200, US$2,000 and GH¢500 as books and research allowances respectively, and increase in allowance for warm clothing when travelling abroad.
Similar recommendations, according to the documents, were also made and approved across board for the registrars and finance officers of polytechnics in the 10 regions of Ghana.
The rectors and the council proffered several arguments to justify demands for the improved working conditions, including the fact that conditions at the universities were far better than in the polytechnics
They also argued that the adjustments would be a source of encouragement to rectors, and entice people to apply for the position.
“That considering the background of the challenges of managerial issues in the polytechnics, rectors have no time to engage in other activities such as consultancy to generate income for themselves. Rectors make a lot of sacrifices by choosing to be in the polytechnics, considering those that especially, come from universities,” they contended.
They further asserted that as rectors and governing council members, they do not have negotiation powers, and only receive what comes out of POTAG/Government negotiations, which they claim, put them in disadvantageous positions.
But, what appeared to have stirred controversy is the fact that the meeting, or the document, was never made public until a few weeks ago, when a High Court in Accra ruled in favour of POTAG in a suit filed against the body by the Labour Commission, challenging their decision to embark on a sit down strike.
Information available to The Chronicle indicates that even though POTAG made its intentions to embark on a strike action known to the authorities at the beginning of the year, the rectors and the governing councils paid no heed, and apparently adopted an apathetic attitude to the plights of the teaching staff.
A source close to POTAG told this reporter in an interview that they were not surprised at the revelations, because throughout their four-week protest, neither the rectors nor the governing councils made their positions known.
“It’s no wonder they chose to sit on the fence and left us to fight for ourselves; we feel betrayed by our authorities,” the source lamented.
The Chronicle’s information is that members of POTAG are yet to begin negotiations with the Fair Wages and Salary Commission, because the authorities at the highest level had failed to hand over the certification letter which will give the association the go ahead to commence negotiations.