Makerere University Council yesterday closed the institution a day to the start of a new academic year, saying there is no money to meet its staff demands of 100 per cent salary increment.
Dr Charles Wana-Etyem, the council chairperson, said they had on several occasions engaged relevant stakeholders to address the staff concerns but without progress.
“Unfortunately, due to the limited resource envelope, the council is unable to fulfill the demand for salary increase. All offices will be closed except those designated to offer services to facilitate council and management to engage in dialogue,” Dr Wana-Etyem told journalists after a council emergency meeting yesterday.
The university staff were yesterday ordered to hand over their office keys to respective heads of colleges and departments by 4pm today.
The council’s decision follows their meeting with Education Minister Jessica Alupo and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on Tuesday evening. However, Dr Wana-Etyem declined to comment whether the meeting had informed their decision.
But sources privy to the parties involved but who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the government had insisted there was no money to increase their salaries and advised the university should be closed.
This is the second time Makerere closes in two years.
Vice Chancellor Ddumba Ssentamu yesterday said more Shs75 billion was required to meet the staff demands. Currently, the government pays 57 per cent of the staff salaries while the university contributes 43 per cent.
However, Prof Ssentamu earlier said management had failed to meet staff salaries for May, June and July after it accumulated a Shs50 billion debt in pension payments.
As a result, he appealed to government to take over the university wage bill as it does in the other four public universities; Mbarara, Gulu, Busitema and Kyambogo.
On September 1, 2011, Dr Wana-Etyem appealed to staff to return to work after they laid down tools during the semester, demanding a salary raise. This forced the council to close the university and asked all students to return home until the matter was resolved.
Three weeks later, the university was re-opened with a promise to increase staff pay.
The academic staff chairperson, Dr Muhammed Kiggundu on May 3 declared a strike again after several months of engaging stakeholders. This was suspended two days later to allow students sit their final examinations but also see if the government would incorporate their demand in the Budget as earlier promised.
The strike was resumed on August 7.
Last year, the government instituted a committee led by Prof Francis Omaswa to review staff salaries.
The committee recognised that the lecturers were underpaid and recommended that a professor who currently earns a gross pay of Shs3 million per month be reviewed to Shs8 million.
But the lecturers are demanding that before government moves to implement the findings of the report, at least their pay be reviewed to Shs3.8 million take home, for a professor.