Tuesday November 14 2017

Unions sue doctors over strike

Uganda Medical Association president, Dr Ekwaro

Uganda Medical Association president, Dr Ekwaro Obuku addressing journalists in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA  

By EPHRAIM KASOZI & JALIRA NAMYALO

KAMPALA- Three workers' unions have challenged the on-going negotiations between government and the striking medical workers in respect of their terms and conditions citing sidestepping of the mandated bodies.

Describing themselves as registered federation of labour unions in Uganda; National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Uganda Medical Workers Union (UMWU) and Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, on Tuesday filed the case in the High Court in Kampala.

On November 6 this year, the doctors under their umbrella body, Uganda Medical Association (UMA) laid down their tools citing government failure to respond to their grievances.
The unions are seeking court order declaring the on-going sit down strike of health workers illegal citing lack of legal authority to lead the said strike.
They are also seeking court declaration that NOTU and UMWU are the only gazetted bodies mandated to negotiate on behalf of health workers and an order restraining Attorney General (AG) from holding any form of negotiations with the striking doctors in respect to any terms and conditions of health workers in Uganda.

Earlier on, UMWU and UNMU disassociated themselves from the medical doctors’ strike saying the move by UMA did not go through the right channels.
NOTU chairman, Mr Usher Wilson Owere also warned the government against dealing with associations rather than workers’ trade unions.
Reports indicate that UMA and UMWU have been embroiled in leadership wrangles which prompted a March 31 letter by the director of labour in the ministry of Gender, Mr Martin Wandera, which confirmed new leaders of the union excluding the Workers MP, Dr Sam Lyomoki.

They sued AG, UMA, Dr Ebuku Ekwaro (UMA president) and Dr Lyomoki contending that the group has no legal authority to handle matters of health workers.
Through their lawyers, the unions contend that the act of UMA, a limited company with only twenty members purporting to represent the socio-economic interests of health workers in Uganda is illegal for lack of requisite legal mandate.

The unions allege that Dr Ekwaro is a private medical person who is not working in any public health facility and thus, has no right to sidestep the established bodies engaged in the negotiations and consultations with government under the public service negotiating and consultative council and call for strike of health workers in Uganda.

They further allege that the on-going talks for workers’ rights and economic interests are unwarranted and unsolicited interventions that are frustrating meaningful negotiations by responsible bodies as provided for in the statutory provisions.
Meanwhile, the accused parties are yet to respond to the court case.

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