I wish to inform this House that indeed
as far back as January 5, 2006, the Ghana Education Service (GES) met GNAT, NAGRAT, and the Labour Commission to discuss the way forward for managing the industrial relations issue within the GES. And it was indicated that there was the need for GNAT and NAGRAT to set up a joint negotiating team to negotiate on salaries and conditions of service as GNAT has been given the bargaining certificate. And GNAT upon receipt of the bargaining certificate wrote to NAGRAT to submit their nominees for the joint negotiating team and also provide inputs for the negotiations. NAGRAT has not given that a favourable response.
In the year 2006, there were meetings
between NAGRAT and my predecessor and as I said, I have met them twice. The first time was when I was appointed and they congratulated me and I invited them to my office. We discussed all matters concerning them, and after they had resolved these matters at their conference, I again invited them to discuss the issues of concern as I have already stated.
The GES Council had met with the leadership of NAGRAT, this was in July, together with GNAT and agreed on charting a new course in resolving all issues amicably. The Council also met with NAGRAT on Thursday, 12th October 2006, and made a passionate appeal to NAGRAT to consider both the short and long-term effect of their action, especially the effect on the examination classes, and return to the classrooms to enable all parties to try and negotiate these matters.
NAGRAT's position was that the Council's appeal can only be considered
by the congress of NAGRAT as it was the congress that made that resolution. And when they were asked when congress would have time to consider it, the executives were unable to tell the Council when this would take place.
Furthermore, NAGRAT has met representatives of the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment which is the lead negotiator of Government when it comes to negotiating salaries and conditions of service. CHASS has also met the executives of NAGRAT at the residence of the Greater Accra Regional Minister, sometime ago, I think about two weeks ago.
The Greater Accra Regional Minister undertook to arrange a meeting with H.E. the President so that they could even bypass the Minister and deal with the Head of State directly. But then he wanted an undertaking that whatever the outcome of that discussion, they would go back to work. Their response was that if they did not receive a positive assurance from the meeting, they could not convince their members to go back to the classroom. And since they were being requested to give an undertaking even before the meeting, they would not take up the offer to meet H.E. the President.
Of course, the heads of the religious bodies have met NAGRAT, the Ministry, the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the GES Council on various occasions, and, I, as the Minister, have given them the assurance of my preparedness to attend any meeting convened under the auspices of the religious bodies so that we could amicably resolve this matter.
Of course, the efforts made by the National Labour Commission to resolve this matter is a matter of public record. We know that they took the matter to the high
court; the high court declared the strike illegal. When the GES Council set up a joint negotiating committee to consider proposals on new conditions of service, as I have said, GNAT wrote to NAGRAT inviting them to nominate two persons to join them to negotiate but they have not taken up this matter
Of course, I am keenly aware of the rivalry between GNAT and NAGRAT, for the reason that the National Labour Commission has issued a certificate to GNAT. The Ministry, even though it has held several meetings with NAGRAT on various occasions, over the past three or four years, the meetings have not been designed to negotiate conditions of service.
Mr. Speaker, as I stand here as a Minister, I am more than ever prepared to meet the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT). I am indeed desirous of meeting NAGRAT, but as I informed the religious bodies, I would want them to play, let us say, a facilitatory role and bring all the stakeholders -- Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), NAGRAT, Ghana Education Service (GES), GES Council and the Ministry -- to the table so that we discuss matters in order to resolve the current impasse.
Indeed, whilst exploring avenues for resolving this matter, directives have been given to heads of institution to engage teachers in the interim, in consultation with their boards and the parent-teacher associations to stabilize the situation. Some old students associations have also mobilized their members who are teachers to liaise with heads of institution, to assist in resolving the crisis, and even pay some teachers to teach the third year students.
Of course, retired teachers are also being recruited to support teaching in schools, and national service personnel have been strategically posted to some of these schools as an interim measure. But this is a crisis and these are decisions taken to meet the crisis. We do not believe that this can be a final solution, but being an eternal optimist, I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I must place on record that Government appreciates the good efforts being made by all teachers, including graduate teachers, to educate the future manpower of this country. And before NAGRAT embarked on the strike action, as I said, I had discussions with them. Circums-tances have not changed, new facts have not arisen, but we are still ready and willing to meet them to dialogue on this matter. I would therefore continue to appeal to the leadership of NAGRAT to try and urge their members to return to the classrooms so that we can dialogue on their concerns and lay this matter to rest.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you most sincerely and the House for your patience in permitting me to give quite a comprehensive brief on this situation so that the House, as representatives of the people of this country can be fully apprised of the situation and then also offer advice on the way forward.
I thank you most sincerely, Mr. Speaker.