Government silent on our issues, say striking public university staff

Makerere University lecturers during a meeting. FILE PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Mr Kibenge said he individually called each of the university’s leadership to explain what government was doing and appealed that they should not paralyse the operations of their respective institutions.
  • Mr Betihamah acknowledged having received a call from Mr Kibenge but insisted that wasn’t official for him to present before his members.

Staff of public universities have accused government of remaining indifferent to their grievances even when they wrote to them detailing their salary issues.

Both representatives from the academic and non-teaching staff associations of the nine public universities sought clarification from Public Service yesterday which they would present before their members as evidence to get their salary arrears amounting Shs33.8 billion before they can call off the strike.

They said it will be difficult to convince their members if they do not have a pay structure from Public Service detailing what each one of them will be getting.

Mr Jackson Betihamah, the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF) chairperson, said although they have written to Public Service, Finance and Education ministries, they have not received any official communication in response to their salary grievances.
“We have not had any formal communication except reading things in the newspapers. None of them has written back to us. It is unfortunate that students are stranded. The problem is the government. Who is fooling who? I can’t fully understand why if Cabinet approved and all this time where have they been? We have nothing to do,” Mr Betihamah said.

His counterpart, Dr Grace Lubaale, chairing the Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda (FASPU), also told Daily Monitor that his attempt to get feedback yesterday from Public Service was futile as he claims that the officers were engaged in other activities.
“I was at Public Service in the morning. I went back in the afternoon. People speak what they can’t do. As of now, I want a pay structure to call off the strike. Without it, the strike will continue,” Dr Lubaale said.
He said the pay structure would confirm and detail how much they have been added.

So far, Kyambogo University, Busitema and Makerere University Business School are participating in the strike. Makerere staff had earlier indicated that they will not report when their semester begins on January 19.

Govt response
However, the Ministry of Education undersecretary, Mr Aggrey Kibenge, yesterday said while he appreciates their concerns, the associations’ leadership should know that their demands can’t be fulfilled in a day.

Mr Kibenge said he individually called each of the university’s leadership to explain what government was doing and appealed that they should not paralyse the operations of their respective institutions.
“These are issues being discussed. This can’t be addressed in one day. Finance issued a statement and I have talked to Deus [Kamunyu] of Makerere, Lubaale and Betihamah of Kyambogo. We continue to reason together with the leadership and staff. But you must know that there are processes that will be followed. Let us do our part. We are already in advanced stages in as far as these matters are concerned,” Mr Kibenge said.

Mr Betihamah acknowledged having received a call from Mr Kibenge but insisted that wasn’t official for him to present before his members.

RELEASED FUNDS
The Ministry of Finance last week indicated that it had released Shs29.5b, which included arrears of salary enhancement for academic staff and the Shs4.3b arrears for the support staff of all government universities.

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