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Why Polytechnic Teachers deserve the Book and Research Allowance
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Why Polytechnic Teachers deserve the Book and Research Allowance

Sat, 16 Aug 2014 Source: Public Agenda

There are two separate allowances paid primarily to Teaching staff in Tertiary and analogous institutions. With regard to Polytechnics, it commenced in June 2006, when Government and the Polytechnic Teachers' Association of Ghana ( POTAG) signed onto a collective agreement as part of their conditions of service.

As a condition of service, article seven (7), with the heading: Resolution of Trade Dispute spells out the procedure for resolving any dispute that might arise. It reads: 'In the event of a trade dispute the employer and the Employee shall attempt to resolve it in the spirit of the preamble of this document.'

The Book and Research allowances have been in place since 2006 until government unilaterally decided in 2014 to scrap it and replace it with a National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF). It is important to note that the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651) states clearly how the conditions of service of an employee may be reviewed when the need arises. It is, therefore, strange, unlawful and ultra vires for government and for that matter the ministry of education to singularly vary POTAG's conditions of service without recourse to the position of the law.

It is a huge error for the ministry of education to equate developmental research to instructional research. These are completely different as developmental research aims at exploring alternative ways to solve a particular problem to bring about development, whilst instructional research involves inter alia the basic preparation a lecturer undertakes to discover further insights on a given subject matter before going to the lecture hall to teach. The outcome of some of the instructional research conducted by lecturers are published as a contribution to existing perspectives, and to stimulate further research in academia. This research activity may involve consulting books, documents, journals and a myriad of reading materials before teaching takes place. Therefore, the B&R allowances are not necessarily for developmental research which seems to be the nature and main focus of the NRIF.

Objectives of the Book and Research Allowance

The Book and Research allowance constitute part of the tools, equipment, machinery or learning materials to aid the Lecturer in performing his or her day-to-day activities as teachers. Therefore, its basic purpose is not necessarily to aid or help the Lecturer to conduct publishable or developmental research. Although at some material moment the lecturer can use it to pay publication fees for research work, it is basically considered as a tool to help in the acquisition of instructive knowledge.

Therefore, it is out of context for someone to suggest that the B&R allowance is purely for publishable research activity. That kind of interpretation amounts to a complete misrepresentation and mis-education because all other working environments per their peculiar nature are assigned specific allowances. The Book and Research allowance is also an allowance paid to the POTAG members to help them to execute their work as teachers of the Polytechnics.

The Book and Research and National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF) Compared

The Book and Research allowance as has been stated above is a negotiated condition of service or an accrued right by the Polytechnic Lecturer, and commenced in June 2006 while the National Research and Innovation Fund is entirely new, a unilateral effort by the Ministry of education, and government first talked about in the year 2013.

The NRIF looks more or less like a policy decision if Government has already started its implementation, or it is a policy proposal if it is now being proposed and is awaiting acceptance and implementation. It would, therefore, be a mistake and a misunderstanding of facts if Government intends to replace the Book and Research allowance with the NRIF, since the two are not the same. One is a condition of service, and the other is a Government policy directive awaiting implementation.

As has been stated, the purpose of the two is not the same. Whereas the Book and Research allowance is purposely a condition of service and a tool, material or machinery to aid POTAG members in the execution of their work as Teachers or Lecturers, the NRIF is purely a fund set up by Government purposely for research and developmental activities of the Nation from which people from Academia, Research and Scientific Institutions, Journalists, Lecturers, Medical Practitioners, Lawyers, Judges, etc. can access for such purposes.

Therefore, the Book and Research allowance can be seen as occupation related allowance to lecturers only, and NRIF is open to all occupations once they intend to carry out any research for the development of the nation.

POTAG'S Position on the NRIF

The Polytechnic Teachers' Association of Ghana has stated in unequivocal and emphatic terms, that they are not against the NRIF and that it is a laudable idea, and POTAG is in full support if Government intends setting up a research fund. As it is done in other jurisdictions, such funds are in existence and people from all walks of life including academia can access for developmental research. So if Government can guarantee sustainable financial commitment to theFund that would be a plus for the Government to implement.

Government can even appeal to corporate Ghana to contribute to such a wonderful idea/fund, and that would broaden the fund's base and a go a long way to sustain it.

Government can also source for external funding for a start to compliment her efforts. POTAG believes the NRIF is a policy decision by Government which should do all it takes to obtain funding before implementation to ensure its sustainability. The Position of the Law (June 2006 Condition of Service and the Labour Act 2003, (Act 651)

The Book and Research allowance which is the subject of debate as to whether Government can scrap and replace with NRIF became part of POTAG members conditions of service signed in June 2006 between the employer represented by Council Chairmen of all the ten Polytechnics in Ghana on one hand and Executives of POTAG of the ten Polytechnics on the other. It is important to note that one of the signatories to the conditions of service referred to in this paper who represented Government as the employer was the Council Chairman of Takoradi Polytechnic in the year 2006. This personality is now the Chairman of the NRIF in what seems like a clear contradiction, and a breach of contract is that, since he signed the 2006 POTAG conditions of service on behalf of Government, which preamble makes the document binding on all the parties, (in this case POTAG and Government), he also the Chair of the NRIF Committee which seeks to replace the agreed and binding Book and Research allowance.

Article seven (7.0) of the 2006 conditions of service provides for resolution of the trade dispute and reads: “In the event of a trade dispute the employer shall attempt to resolve it in the spirit of the preamble of this agreement.” Paragraph two (2) of the preamble affirms the provision on section seven (7.0) as it reads: “ Whereas the contracting parties are committed to and hereby bind themselves to actively co-operate and resolve all problems affecting their relationship in a spirit of mutual accommodation, trust, respect and understanding: and whereas the parties hereto affirm and commit themselves to employing their best endeavors to encourage and ensure the fair, prompt settlement of all matters and disputes which may arise under the terms and conditions of this agreement.” It is my belief and POTAG's also, that none of these principles was applied in the decision to scrap the Book and Research allowance and that due consideration was not accorded the provisions in the conditions of service above.

Columnist: Public Agenda