Government and organised labour meeting over COLA ends in stalemate

A meeting between government and organised labour over demand for a Cost-of-Living-Allowance (COLA) has ended in stalemate for a second time.

This is after the two parties failed to agree on the terms of engagement.

The unions are demanding 20 per cent COLA to cushion them against the economic hardship.

The government, before the meeting, had demanded that the four striking teacher unions namely; Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT), call off their two weeks old industrial action before any negotiations could begin.

However, the unions were not ready to rescind the decision and staged a walk out.

Speaking in an interview with journalists after negotiations fell through, Mr Bright Wereko-Brobbey, a Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, expressed disappointment at their failure to have a fruitful discussion.

He said the government was willing and ready to negotiate with labour as their call for the 20 per cent COLA was legitimate.

However, he said it could not do so while one group was still on strike, as that would contravene section 161 of the labour laws.

“The issue is that the government maintains that we want to meet them and start negotiating, but we cannot do this because we are constrained under the law not to negotiate when one party is on strike.

“And so, organised labour suggested that we adjourn the meeting and do more talking for them to call off the strike, and then we start the negotiation,” he said.

He added that: “Obviously yes, I am disappointed that they (teacher unions) have not called off the strike because, we were under high optimism that they will do so, so that we start the negotiation. So, we are not too happy that they have not called it off.”

The government was represented by Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance, Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Employment and Labour Minister, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, National Security Minister, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister of Education, and Mr Wereko-Brobbey, among others.

Organised labour was also represented by leaders of the various labour unions.

Mr Joshua Ansah, Deputy Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), cautioned government to find an immediate solution to the problem to avert escalation of the industrial actions from organised labour.

He said organised labour and the government would engage further with the four striking teacher unions for a common ground to be agreed on to pave way for negotiations to restart.

“I think that they (teacher unions) have declared the strike and if I were them, definitely that’s the same thing I would do,” he added.

Meanwhile, the four striking teacher unions have reaffirmed their industrial action after walking out of the meeting between the government and the labour unions.

Reverend Isaac Owusu, President of the GNAT, speaking to the media on behalf of the teacher unions, accused government of showing bad faith.

“What happened today is very unfortunate. What I can say now is that our negotiations have come inconclusive, and we are still on strike,” he said.

Other labour unions including the Public Sector Workers Union (PSWU), Union of Professional Nurse and Midwives and Ghana Medical Association (GMA), have hinted of industrial action if government failed to pay them the COLA.

Source: GNA

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