Public universities staff agree to strike over pay

Makerere University lecturers during a meeting on December 15, 2016. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Kampala-The teaching and the non-teaching staff from the nine public universities yesterday announced a nationwide strike after failure by government to consider them for salary enhancements and payment of their arrears in the next financial year’s budget.

The lecturers under the Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities (FASPU) and the non-teaching staff under the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUTISEF) vowed not to return to their duty stations the next academic year starting in August if the government does not remit their pay amounting to Shs138 billion. This was agreed during a meeting at Makerere University.

The chairperson of FASPU, Dr Grace Lubaale, said after learning that the government did not include their money in the budget, they consulted the leaders of different associations and agreed to lay down their tools.

“We are demanding from the government Shs138 billion; Shs58.5 billion is in arrears while Shs78.5 billion is for enhancement in the 2018/2019 financial year. If the government does not remit that money to our accounts, no one will return to class come next academic year,” Dr Lubaale said.

Tired of govt promises
The PUTISEF chairperson, Mr Jackson Betihama, said they are tired of government’s empty promises.
“We want the government to come out and explain why our money was not included in the budget; we are tired of all their lies,” Mr Betihama said.

Mr Alex Kakooza, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Education, urged the staff to be patient, saying government is committed to increasing their salaries.

“We are going to engage them because we are still interested in their services. The government has also been working very hard to ensure that we progressively increase their pay and we have done that in the last three years despite having competing priorities, but we are still considering their increment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Makerere University Business School Academic Staff Association (MUBASA) have rejected management’s plea to end the strike they started a week ago.

In a staff meeting held yesterday, the lecturers argued that there was no commitment from either government or their bosses to convince them that something was being done to pay their Shs45 billion arrears and were not ready to bow to pressure.

The MUBASA chairperson, Dr Isaac Magoola, demanded that the institution’s principal, Prof Wasswa Balunywa, secures a confirmation letter of the school’s wage requirements from the Ministry of Public Service to enable the ministry of Finance to act.

“The strike is on. We are waiting for an official communication. Council resolved that the principal should secure the aforementioned letter of confirmation,” he said.

Dr Magoola added that they are tired of empty promises from their managers and unless government responds, they will not supervise students already on field attachments.

The lecturers have also warned that they will not mark students’ examinations, which they completed about two weeks ago. This, in turn, will affect many finalists who are expected to graduate early January next year.

Ministry of Public Service secretary Catherine Musingwiire Bitarakwate and her Finance counterpart Keith Muhakanizi did not respond to this newspaper’s repeated calls on their known telephone contacts.