The arbitrary suspension of the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is now threatening the careers of thousands of teachers. This is happening when the services of teachers are highly needed as the country prepares for school re-opening in January.
The deferral of the CBA has devastated teachers as their employer continues to deny them deserved promotions, salary increments and other accompanying fringe benefits. Teachers’ dreams of ascending the career ladder were shattered after the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) through May 2, 2019, circular purported to abolish and replace the three Schemes of Service in the Teaching Service with Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) in contravention of the CBA.
The CBA, which was signed between Knut and TSC following the release of Job Evaluation Report in the Teaching Service by Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) in 2016, intended to facilitate structured and constructive dialogue between the employer and the union.
It was to remain in force for four years with effect from July 1, 2017. The agreement was to remain binding to both parties until a new CBA was negotiated and signed. This was not to be the case after TSC suspended the agreement, replacing it with CPG tools which were not negotiated by TSC and Knut as per the requirement of the Statutory Instruments Act (2013) and approved by Parliament.
In the event that any provisions of the CBA were to be modified after the agreement had been signed, this was to be done through mutual consent of the parties; made in writing and signed by the representatives of Knut and TSC. Any variation and/or amendment of the CBA affecting remuneration and benefits were to be subjected to SRC advice. This is what the law states, but the teachers’ employer has violated the procedure and opted to act as lone ranger – suspending the CBA arbitrarily.
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The commission unilaterally suspended the CBA effective July 1, 2019, and consequently denied Knut members, who form the bulk of the teaching force, from benefiting from the agreement duly signed and registered in court and whose registration certificate has not been revoked.
The employer has continued to exclude Knut members from benefiting from the CBA, and tenaciously locked out all union members from any form of promotional rights in addition to mutilating Knut membership register.
The Industrial Court ordered TSC not to temper with union rights of all school administrators; to liaise with Knut to validate Teachers Performance Appraisal and Development (TPAD) tools. This has not come to pass. The commission has instead continued to execute TPAD in total disregard of the court direction.
The circular of May 2, 2019, introducing CPG tools was nullified by the court, hence cannot apply to teachers in the public service. But TSC has continued to use the tools in promoting and upgrading teachers whereas the court declared the Code of Regulations for Teachers will only be the tool to use in upgrading and promoting teachers.
As teachers continue to languish in anxiety and uncertainty over the future of their careers after being denied the benefits in the CBA, the commission for strange reason(s) has elected to introduce two parallel payrolls in the teaching service — one for Knut members and the other for non-Knut members which is contrary to the Constitution, TSC Act (2012), Labour Relation Act (2007) and International Labour Organisation Convention.
The three schemes of service as embodied in the Code of Regulations for Teachers were properly and appropriately negotiated and approved by Parliament. CPG tools were developed principally to aid in abolishing new higher qualifications by teachers.
By extension, Teacher Professional Development (TPD) policy that was single-handedly developed by the commission and accordingly rolled out was also nullified by the court as the process was not conducted as per the requirement of the law – the Statutory Instruments Act.
The court ordered both TSC and Knut to engage with a view to coming up with an acceptable TPD policy. To date, nothing has been realised as the commission has failed to schedule meetings for the same.
It is the union’s position is that TSC complies with the law by constituting a CBA negotiation panel as provided for in Section 13(5) of TSC Act.
The process of negotiating the next CBA should be set in motion only after the Job Evaluation Exercise. Teachers were poorly evaluated in the previous exercise where SRC banded them with semi-skilled support staff like drivers, artisans, cooks and interns in Teacher Scale 9.
Mr Sossion is a nominated MP and Secretary-General of Knut.