Teachers associations reject intention to freeze salaries

Two teachers associations have rejected the government’s intention to place a moratorium on public sector salaries for 2014, saying that the action has the tendency to affect the living standard of Ghanaians, especially teachers.

The associations, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT), have threatened to resist any attempts by the government to freeze increase in workers’ salaries.

Addressing journalists in Accra on Monday, a Deputy General Secretary of GNAT in-charge of Finance, Mr Veni Demanya, said the moratorium on salaries was not the way to address the current economic challenges in the country.

“The harsh economic conditions we are going through are too biting to talk about a freeze on salary increase. Clearly, the purchasing power of public sector workers has been drastically reduced. How does the government expect workers to be empowered to break even?” he asked.

On Monday, December 23, last year, the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper, announced in Parliament that the government was considering placing a moratorium on increases in public sector salaries for 2014.

He said any intended increase in salaries of public sector workers would be frozen if the moratorium was implemented.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) kicked against the decision, saying that considering the continuous high cost of living caused by increment in taxes and utility tariffs, the proposed freeze on salaries would greatly affect workers.

Implication of  moratorium
Mr Demanya said GNAT’s decision to reject the government’s announcement was in relation to the current inflation rate of 14 per cent which directly reflected in prices of  goods and services.

He observed that the effect of the rise in inflation rate and the general economic malaise “is too glaring to ignore or overlook”.

“Prices of utilities have been formatted and thereby leading to upward automatic adjustment almost bi-weekly. Subsidies on fuel and other petroleum products have been removed and VAT has been increased from 15 to 17.5 per cent,” Mr Demanya said.

He said if the daily base pay of GH¢5.32 was maintained, the living conditions of teachers in the country would be badly affected.

Unresolved issues
Mr Demanya recalled that in March 2013, the teachers union embarked on an industrial action over four main grievances and after mounting persistent pressure on the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), the association managed to get some issues resolved.

“The leadership of the teachers unions has since not relented in getting the rest of the concerns resolved despite the feet-dragging attitude on the part of GES and the government. It, therefore, came as a surprise to the leadership of organised labour when the government came out with announcement,” he said.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the President of CCT, Mr Ernest Opoku, said the high cost of living necessitated an increase in salaries this year.

He said the rise in the inflation rate, coupled with the fall of the cedi, had increased the cost of goods and services on the market and wondered why the government would not increase salaries in the midst of the current economic difficulties.

Arrears owed teachers
Mr Opoku also told the Daily Graphic that if by the end of April, the government had not rescinded its decision not to pay the full arrears owed teachers, they would register their displeasure through legitimate means.

“All workers are being paid their arrears in full and it is difficult for us to understand why teachers have to be victimised and not treated fairly,” he said.

He wondered why the government would pay three months’ salary arrears and not the number of months a teacher had worked.

“I have read a letter signed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Seth Terkper, directing that salary arrears with respect to recruitment, promotion and re-activation of staff should not exceed three months and this is highly unacceptable and cruel,” he said.

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