Uganda’s academic and non-academic staff of all public universities yesterday, publicly announced a strike which would take effect from the beginning of the new semester to come, except the government pays them their arrears for the salary enhancement which was promised.
The next semester is said to be open by January 2019. The chairman of the forum for the Academic Staff for Public Universities, Mr Grace Lubaale while addressing journalists at a press conference at Makerere University said, that the government were meant to remit Shs58b for their salary enhancement in the 2017/2018 financial year but they are yet to do so.
Mr Lubaale who said that after many meetings and negotiations with the Minister of Education, Mrs Janet Museveni, and other through numerous negotiations and meetings with the Minister of Education, Ms Janet Museveni, and other government officials from different ministries, were able to resolve and reach an agreement that they would be paid Shs29b first and the rest be remitted later.
He continued his speech saying that they have been teaching students throughout the semester hoping to get their arrears but the money has not yet been remitted to their accounts. He also talked about the various letters they received from the minister of State for Finance, Ministry of Public Service and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury reaffirming government’s position and commitment to clear the outstanding salary balance of Shs29b. But to-date, the money has not yet been cleared,” Mr Lubaale said. “The Minister of Education also assured us that this money was going to be cleared in 2017/2018 financial year but we are shocked that despite all these assurances, we have not seen any tangible progress of receiving the money and an enhanced salary structure in the financial year 2018/2019,” he added.
The Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa) chairperson, Mr Deus Kamunyu, explained that they have been extremely patient with the government and they should deliver the pledge made to them since 2015. Mr Kamunyu said they are ready to have more talks with government about the payment. The non-teaching staff are demanding Shs4.3b for their salary enhancement, which is separate from that of their teaching counterparts.
The staff accused the Ministry of Education of not following up with the responsible officials to ensure the money is paid. They claim that they have written a document to the ministry informing them of the strike. When contacted for a comment, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mr Chrysostom Muyingo, said they had not received the official communication from the staff about their intention to strike.
Mr Muyingo said it is surprising to hear that the staff have taken the decision yet they have been in negotiations with the ministry. “There has been a way we have been communicating with those groups of people. I am shocked to hear that they have now taken another direction. The government believed that the best way of managing our issues is by sharing just like we have been doing. I thought we have been progressing well and I was certain that their issues were going to be addressed by the government and their councils,” Mr Muyingo said this on a phone call.
He continued by saying “We are going to sit down and handle their issues but the public should not be alarmed. These are mature people and we have been discussing. No one should panic about this. We shall continue talking until this issue is handled”.
Representatives from public universities, including Makerere, Muni, Mbarara, Makerere University Business School, Soroti, Busitema, Kyambogo, Lira and Kabale were present at the press conference. he added saying, This is not the first time staff at government universities are deciding on industrial action over their salary enhancement. In 2015, President Museveni pledged to increase salaries of all staff in public universities up to Shs15m for a professor. However, the government resolved to have the money increased in five financial years from 2015 to 2020. In 2016, Mr Museveni closed Makerere after the staff went on strike over the salary enhancement.