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There has been a negative perception over a considerable period vis a vis Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Successive governments have taken steps to deal with the negative perceptions.
Among other things, the government decided to raise the prestige of TVET through the conversion of polytechnics to Technical Universities. Undoubtedly, conditions of service play an essential role as a ‘motivator’ to every employee in both the public and private sectors.
TUTAG, as per their claims, which is providing the pretext for declaring a strike, (effective Monday, 14 June 2021) highlights conditions of service as a major issue.
I will attempt to deal with the claims one by one. I cannot guess what their real motives are, but they have declared this strike using totally misleading narratives as a pretext.
1. The claim by TUTAG that their conditions of service have expired and remained frozen since 2006 is completely unfounded as TUTAG was not even in existence in 2006; there were no Technical Universities in 2006!. The conditions of service for Polytechnics and that of Universities cannot be mixed up.
2. TUTAG also claims that the conditions of service, though agreed by the government to be in tandem with their traditional University counterparts and that same is yet to be implemented is frivolous and misleading. The government has not only written as a sign of good faith for the migration to be possible, but it has also taken specific steps to give effect to the policy, i.e. for TUTAG members to enjoy the same conditions of service as that of the traditional Universities. TUTAG, for example, is on the same salary grade structure, same interim market premium (114% of the base year basic salary, whereas it used to 96%), and also approved allowances for officeholders in public Universities that are vastly better than what they used to have for Polytechnics.
3. Government wrote through NCTE to all councils of the Technical Universities to facilitate the full adoption of conditions of service similar to that in the public Universities. TUTAG is aware that there are no one single (common) conditions of service for all public universities. The practice is that a large part of the conditions of service is university-specific and hence negotiated on an individual university basis subject to the ability to pay from Internally Generated Fund(IGF). So it is a total misrepresentation of facts on the part of TUTAG to suggest that the government has done nothing to implement their conditions of service. The communication to the various Technical University Councils by the NCTE, in my understanding, was the cue for them to take the appropriate action.
4. TUTAG claim that their Scheme of Service is harsh, as compared to those existing in analogous institutions, thus slowing down the academic progression of TUTAG members. I am hesitant in saying this, but respectfully, I was made to believe at the time of the conversion that had the scheme been applied strictly as per the Technical Universities Act, the majority of TUTAG members would not have met the standards and wouldn’t be teaching in the Technical University today. With the permission of the Ministry of Education, and in response to pleas for a human face to be applied in the conversion process, a very flexible a soft approach was used. The standards of being qualified as a University Lecturer are high and demanding.. My humble advice to TUTAG is that, while they are looking for improved conditions of service, they should be aiming to be counted among the best in the university system. It shouldn’t be a fight for the bottom of the pile with low standards.
Unfortunately, TUTAG’s strike is one of the many strikes recently engineered by the leadership of Unions knowing there are no consequences for such unwarranted action. The strikes have become the weapon of choice lately that the unions resort to in their efforts to blackmail the government. It is my prayer that government would see through and address these actions for what they are. Fortunately, TUTAG has done this one too often and they cannot court any public sympathy for using the misleading narratives as an excuse to declare a strike.
The writer, Vincent Ekow Assafuah is the Member of Parliament for Old Tafo and a Member of the Education Committee of Parliament.