A new salary structure popularly known as the Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) has been a thorny issue between state governments and teachers across the country. For the reason of the TSS, state governments and teachers have often been on the war path, thereby threatening the fragile industrial peace and harmony existing in most states.
While several states have implemented the new salary structure for teachers, several others have been unable to do so. The TSS is basically 27 ½ per cent of the basic salaries of the teachers and it is expected to enhance their total pay package for every month as well as put them at par with their counterparts in other professions who earn other extra allowances.
Besides, it is believed that the TSS would make teachers in primary and secondary schools across the country true professionals and give them as well the expected job satisfaction.
In Rivers State, the new teachers salary among other demands temporarily disrupted academic activities in primary and secondary schools in September when the teachers embarked on a work to rule action which lasted for close to a month.
It, however, took the timely intervention of the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to force the teachers back to the classrooms, and the strike action was duly suspended.
A committee headed by the Commissioner for Education, Ms Alice Nemi was set up to look into the grievances of the teachers and work out the financial implications of their demands for prompt implementation.
Our check reveals that series of meetings between members of the committee, the governor and the teachers were held to thrash out all grey areas with a view to meeting the demands of the teachers. While some of the demands of the teachers sailed through the negotiations, the issue of the TSS apparently ended in a deadlock.
Feelers that the state government has not implemented the TSS emerged last Tuesday during the State Working Executive Council (SWEC) meeting of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Port Harcourt, an indication that the last meeting the teachers had with the governor on the issue did not end in their favour.
It was also gathered that the state government acceded to the demands of the teachers in the payment of promotion and leave bonus arrears while local government councils in the state are equally expected to foot the bills of whatever was owed the teachers before the governor came to office on October 26, 2007.
The local governments are also expected to pay such entitlements to the teachers on two instalmental payments beginning from this month.
It is on record that before the issue of TSS came to the front burner, the Amaechi administration had taken over the payment of salaries of teachers in primary schools which was hitherto the constitutional responsibilities of local government councils. Before the governor’s timely intervention, primary schools teachers’ salaries were in arrears of several months.
But the state government has always said it loud and clear that primary and secondary schools’ teachers in the state were the highest paid in the country.
Though the teachers are seemingly grateful to the governor for meeting some of their demands, the issue of TSS is far from being over if the comments of Comrade (Chief) Moses Adiela, the state chairman of NUT are anything to go by.
Comrade Adiela who described the non-implementation of the TSS as unfortunate in an encounter with The Tide on Sunday in Port Harcourt last Tuesday said the teachers would register their grievances to the government on the issue.
He explained that while the teachers were still weighing their options on the next line of action, they were going to register their grievances to the government for the non-implementation of the TSS.
The NUT chairman said the teachers had refused to accept the position of the government that the N124 million required for the implementation of the TSS was too high.
His words: “The state government has been able to approve some of the demands we made. But it is unfortunate that the major demand, that is, the Teachers Salary Scale was not implemented. Now, we are not happy. We refuse to accept the position of government on the non-implementation of the TSS.”
When he was asked the reason the government gave for the non-implementation of the TSS, he replied: “The reason was that the financial implication is too high for government to carry. Will N124 million be too high for the government to implement the TSS?”
On the next line of action, Adiela said: “We will still register our grievances once more to government before we take any action. We summoned the meeting to brief our SWEC on the outcome of our negotiations with the government.”
When he was asked if the NUT had taken a concrete decision on the government’s failure to implement the TSS, he replied: “Yes, we have taken decisions but the decisions will not be made known yet.”