Pay CLOGSAG members well but Neutrality allowance is a deathtrap

Pay CLOGSAG members well but Neutrality allowance is a deathtrap

Workers deserve to be compensated well for their efforts. That is a must and it is said every man eats from his workplace. That is common sense and a piece of holy advice if we referred to the Bible with reference to Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (NIV), which says “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise, they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin”.

Comparison between employee salary and employee benefits have become very core in recent times when people are choosing which company offer to accept and which to reject. Many focus on the salary while others do focus on the benefits. Such decisions are oftentimes economical, futuristic and personal ambitions. Though companies that offer high salaries attract attention, they are losing out to those that offer competitive benefits.

Government jobs in most countries though are the most secured, several of them are low-paying so employees often bank their hopes on benefits that do come along with the positions. Ironically, not many of them offer good benefits worth noting. But what do the employees have to do? Nothing of course because it is what it is.

Year of Strikes?

The year 2022 has been a very busy one with industrial actions from various labour groups. Prominent among them is the University Teachers Association of Ghana’s prolonged standoff with the employer that almost jeopardized the sector. It did not end in virginity as it was reported late last week that a student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology claimed he invested his school fees in a business due to that strike action and was now facing the deferment of his program as a result. Well, his story is not the skeleton of this writing so I will skip that but if you want to read more on it, kindly click here to read more. We have already experienced strikes from other groups such as the Tertiary and Education Workers Union (TEWU), the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anaesthetists (GACRA), the Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana and the Colleges of Education Non-Teaching Staff Association.

What is common with all of the above mentioned is that they all have in one way or the other complained of the conditions of service. It tells a story of a nation where the workers go out to put in their best but have to go back to beg for what the government is well aware they deserve to be given.

With all that said, the latest strike that has got everyone almost calling the group’s demand bizarre is the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana’s strike and demands which they say they must receive a commitment from the government before they end it. The strike started on Thursday and is heading well into its full one week with there not being any substantial update or any noticeable efforts to resolve it.

Why is the strike not appealing to the masses? The strike is in relation to a prior agreement they claim to have had with the government for them to be paid what they called a ‘Neutrality Allowance’. Oh my God!!! neutrality? Who is neutral and in what sense do you measure neutrality?

Well, they said they deserve the allowance because per their mandate they are not allowed to dabble in partisan politics which means they should not actively participate in party politics. This they said has constantly denied them the chance to benefit from the political booties that come the way of others, especially during the periods before elections where many people harvest fortunes from politicians.

This is sensible right? yeah, it is very sensible and deserving. Several people have warned of the consequences if the government agreed and pays CLOGSAG the said allowance. Professor Kwaku Asare, a United States-based Ghanaian professor warned that students could even demand allowance to take exams if we do not thread cautiously as a country. He noted that “In most places, civil servants are neutral and may, albeit with substantial risks, be incentivized to be partisan. Ghana’s civil servants, on the other hand, appear to be partisan until they are incentivized to be neutral. We have to be careful or soon students will be demanding allowances to take exams, voters will be demanding allowances to vote.”

Dr. Kojo Asante of the Centre for Democratic Development Ghana felt CLOGSAG has a misplaced priority and advised that they rethink. He said “I really feel CLOGSAG should be pulling back from this course of action. I am shocked that government will agree to this in the first place. I describe it as a tautology. How are you rewarding someone for something they are supposed to do as part of their responsibilities? The allowance must be declared unconstitutional. It is illegal in the first place for rewarding someone for something they are obligated to do and are paid for. It is like an unjust reward”.

Civil Service Code and The Supreme Court Verdict

Taking a step from Dr. Asante, we can ask ourselves, what is CLOGSAG even paid to do in the first place?

In the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana Vrs Attorney General and Others (J1 16 of 2016) [2017] GHASC 18 (14 June 2017), the Supreme Court declared that as stated the Civil Service Code of Conduct (issued on 1st November, 1999) was not in contravention of the constitution.

 The Civil Service Code of Conduct (issued on 1st November 1999), section 12(1) (b), (c) and (e) of which read as follows:

“12. (1) The Constitution of Ghana confers rights on all citizens of Ghana, including Civil Servants to join any political party or association of their choice. However, by virtue of the traditional role of the Civil Service to serve the Government of the day loyally, and to maintain the confidence of any future Administration, a Civil Servant may not:

a)  Accept any office paid or unpaid, permanent or temporary, in any political party or organisation;

b)  Declare himself openly as a registered member of a political party or association;

c)  Indicate publicly his support for any party, candidate or policy

d)  Make speeches or join in demonstrations in favour of any political person, party, or propaganda

e)  Engage in activities which are likely to involve him in political controversy.

(2) Notwithstanding, a Civil Servant is entitled to his views in political matters, and if so qualified, may vote at elections.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling stated the following:

1. On a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, a member of the Civil Service or  Local Government Service has a right to join any political party of his or her choice, however, such a person does not have the right to participate overtly in political party activities whilst still a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service.

2. On a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service does not have a right to contest for elections for political party office or hold political party office whilst still a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service.

3. On a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service does not have the right to remain a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service after his or her nomination by a political party or otherwise to contest for election as a member of parliament. Moreover, such a person shall resign from his or her office immediately his or her political activities become overt.

4. The provisions of the Code of Conduct for members of the Civil Service or Local Government Service, enacted by the Councils of Civil Service or Local Government Service and any other authority barring a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service from engaging in political party activities are not in contravention of the Constitution and are therefore not unconstitutional.

5. On a true and proper interpretation of articles 12(2), 21(1)(a) and (d), 21(3), 35(6) 55(1),(2) and (10) and 284 of the Constitution, a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service has the right to contest in local government elections whilst still a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service.

6. However, on a true and proper interpretation of articles 12(2), 21(1)(a) and (d), 21(3), 35(6) 55(1),(2) and (10) and 284 of the Constitution, a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service does not have the right to remain a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service after being sworn in as a member of a District Assembly.

7. The provisions of the Code of Conduct for members of the Civil Service or Local Government Service enacted by the Councils of the Civil Service or Local Government Service and or any other authority, barring a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service from contesting election to become a member of a District Assembly, while still a member of either service, are not in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution and are therefore unconstitutional;

HOWEVER, the provisions of the Code of Conduct for members of the Civil Service or Local Government Service enacted by the Councils of the Civil Service or Local Government Service and or any other authority, barring a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service from being a member of a District Assembly while still a member of the Civil Service or Local Government Service do not contravene any provision of the Constitution and the same are not unconstitutional.

Read the full ruling here.

The Logic

So we are tempted to ask, do people who accept employment in the Civil and Local Government Services know what they are actually meant to do in those roles and why those roles are important? I doubt and if they do but still insist on something called Neutrality Allowance, then is nothing but a labour gymnastic that should not be allowed into the contest let alone given a chance to shine and move to the podium.

We pay the people working the Civil and Local Government Services to perform the roles the neutrals ought to perform so what is there for them to ask for an allowance, not for anything but neutrality? Maybe it was just an error of thinking and nomenclature as the Deputy Finance Minister John Kumah tried to justify. He said “… the name ‘Neutrality Allowance’… is not something that CLOGSAG demanded, it was a term. To be fair to CLOGSAG this negotiation started since 2019, it ended in the early part of 2021. I think the agreement was signed in early part of January with effective date of February, so this is about two years of engagement led by the Senior Presidential Advisor, Fair Wages Commission and the sector minister (Ministry of Employment) as well as the Ministry of Finance”.

Mr John Kumah added that “CLOGSAG did not come on the negotiation table with Neutrality Allowance, they come with all kinds of allowances and demands which they justified – if the government accepted those demands that could triple what they are getting at the moment. So, the government and the negotiation team said something had to be done for CLOGSAG because CLOGSAG was the lowest-paid group on the single spine salary structure.

“But in doing something for them, it did not want to create a situation that once you do something for one group it does not open the flood gate for demands for other groups and there will not be enough resources to pay. So, I believe it is the reason why in trying to clutch a term that they thought at the time could limit to only CLOSAGG came up with the word ‘Neutrality Allowance’,” he explained.

That trick seemed not to have worked well as 36 Public Sector Workers Unions submitted their demands also just this week to also benefit from the neutrality allowance.

Dr Nana Ato Arthur, Head of the Local Government Service announced that the government has agreed to pay the allowance and also said we should “forget about the terminology that we called it because that terminology or nomenclature doesn’t sit well with us as government. So let’s have a team to look at how it is going to be called. However that allowance we’ll give to you effective the last quarter of the year.”

That could be a way out and if it is genuinely to offer them better conditions of services, we as citizens do not have any disagreement but for neutrality, we do because paying someone an allowance for what he is paid to do is insane and an error in decision for many.

Mr Isaac Bampoe, the Executive Secretary of CLOGSAG said we can go to sleep if we don’t understand. Well, that is good from him but we will not sleep and will stay awake to know what this neutrality is all about and how you can alienate just CLOGSAG as the people who are neutral.

The decision to even bring this idea to the public that a group wants neutrality allowance is an injury to the morality of all who were on the negotiation table. This is because the people who claim they should be paid for being neutrals are actually employed to be neutral. Is like a teacher asking the government for a teaching allowance when he is actually employed to teach. Why will a security man ask for allowance to guard the gate when his primary role is to guard the gate. Allowances are benefits which often come as a cushion to workers or extra incentives for maybe added functions outside an employee’s primary duty but not their main function.

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