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Friday, September 06, 2013

Still a scab in Africa

This Monday, September 2 (appropriately Labor Day in the United States, although no where else in the world) I arrived in the history department just before 9 a.m. only to have one of my colleagues tell me that the Vice Chancellor (VC) finally had caved to union demands and that the strike was finally over.

My only problem is that I had class in half an hour, and I had done nothing to prepare.

I grabbed my notes and ran across campus to JQB where, indeed, a group of students were waiting for the lecture. So, we had class.

I texted my students from Missouri that the strike was finally over and that they should go to class. They started complaining that they were showing up for class and their professors were not there.

And then I started hearing rumors that the strike was not over.

On Tuesday, UTAG held a meeting to vote on the strike. Only this time I did not find out about the meeting until the next day. Apparently the only people who knew about the meeting were management from the university, and they promptly voted to call off the strike.

I should not have been surprised by management’s behavior.

Last Friday, August 30, the university held convocation with the VC chairing. He proceeded to insult the faculty, basically calling us a bunch of idiots who didn’t understand the issues and were acting in bad faith. He then tried to force the UTAG president to hold a union meeting right there and then to hold a vote on the strike (ironically the VC is also a member of UTAG). Obviously he thought he would win such a vote. I’m not so sure. Management was behind him, but the faculty seemed to be quite antagonistic to the jerk.

The meeting ended with the VC saying that he would make an announcement on Monday what to do with the university. As the weekend drug on, I was more and more convinced that he was going to cancel the semester.

Imagine my surprise on Monday morning when I was told that the strike was “discontinued” and we were back in the classroom.

But now I’m not so sure.

The strike is between a national union, of which Legon is only one branch, and either the Ministry of Education or the VCG (the Vice Chancellors of all the public universities in Ghana), I’m still not entirely clear on that point. But what this means is that the UG VC could not unilaterally call off the strike, and that neither could the management legitimately call a UTAG meeting on the Legon campus and vote to end the strike.

The signed agreement for the book and research allowance that UTAG is demanding must come from the VCG, and then the national UTAG must vote to end the strike. None of that has happened.

What this means is that we are still on strike, and I am still a scab.

And management at the University of Ghana, even though they are also members of UTAG, are acting like management always does—in the interests of capital rather than the workers…or students.

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