Unatu should offer answers
Posted Friday, September 27 2013 at 01:00
The teachers strike is off. The 10-day industrial action ended on Wednesday after the Uganda National Teachers Union struck a deal with the government on Tuesday night. Of course there should be relief in all quarters that pupils can now expect to have their normal classes but importantly that candidates can make up for lost time ahead of their national exams in a month’s time.
For the teachers’ union leadership though, there is some explaining to do. When they announced the strike, their resolve was that the government had to deliver on its earlier promise to award teachers a 20 per cent increment in this financial year.
Details of the agreement they signed with the government on Tuesday, however, raises more questions. The union apparently offered three options to the government: pay the 20 per cent promise in January 2014, skip this year and instead pay 35 per cent increment in 2014/15 Financial Year or pay 15 per cent this year and 20 per cent in 2014/15.
Of course there are immediate concerns about these proposals. On proposal one, if government has not found money at beginning of the financial year, where will they get it from in the middle of the year? On proposal two, if government failed to capture this increment during budgeting this year, what guarantees are there that it will do so next year? On last proposal, the question remains whether the government can still raise this money.
Even as the teachers’ union leadership announced suspension of the strike, these are some of the questions that lingered not just in the minds of its members but even the public. And we believe the onus of explaining largely lies with the union leadership.
The secretary general says the strike has only been stayed for 28 days but that obviously was not explicit in the agreement—at least the copy we obtained. Strike action is not a light matter. To ask teachers to stay away from class with the devastating effects we saw and then instruct them to resume work minus clear answers might leave some egg on the union’s face.