State prosecutors to strike over low pay

A cross section of state prosecutors and lawyers in private practice attend 2016 New Law year at the High Court in Kampala. The state attorneys under the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions have threatened to strike over low pay and other grievances. PHOTO ERIC DOMINIC BUKENYA

Kampala- All state prosecutors under the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have threatened a strike over low pay.
The state attorneys say they handle complicated cases like terrorism, corruption and murder yet their salary package is less than what a tea girl at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) earns.
The president of Uganda Association of Prosecutors, Mr Baxter Bakibinga, on June 17 wrote to all prosecutors of different seniority inviting them to Kampala on Friday to discuss the matter.

“Following the Uganda Association of Prosecutors executive meeting and pursuant to article 24 (III) of the prosecutors articles of association, you are hereby invited for an extraordinary meeting to gather quorum and conduct a secret ballot poll for the pending industrial action,” Mr Bakibinga’s letter to the prosecutors reads in part.
Each prosecutor was advised to attend in person as the outcome of the Friday meeting “will determine our next action.”

The criminal prosecutors have accordingly alerted the Head of Civil Service, Mr John Mitala, about their impending industrial action.

“We would like to draw your attention to the demands our association has previously laid down before the head of the State, Parliament and Public Service. It’s more than five years since we raised our voices against pitiable remuneration, non-wage benefits including practising allowance, research allowance, and professional risk allowance,” the prosecutors’ letter to Mitala reads in part.
The State Attorneys told Mr Mitala that despite raising their concerns over low pay, they have not received any valuable response from the concerned offices towards their grievances.
“Our position is that five years is a longer than necessary time needed to address our meager demands,” the prosecutors said in their letter.
They said they have exhausted all mechanisms for settlement of their grievances and industrial action is the only remaining option available to them.
They informed Mr Mitala about their Friday meeting to decide on the industrial action.

“During the extra ordinary general assembly, the prosecutors will vote by secret ballot whether industrial action should be taken up and the form that the action shall take. The outcome of the vote will determine the next course of action. The results will be communicated within two days to enable you adequately deal with the grievances of the prosecutors,” the letter further reads.

Salary structure
According to the current salary structure of prosecutors under DPP which Daily Monitor has seen, the lowest ranking state prosecutor earns a gross salary of Shs644,963 a month with the highest paid prosecutor at the rank of Senior Principal State Attorney taking a gross monthly pay of Shs2.1m.
The Deputy DPP is paid Shs2.9m while Assistant DPP earns Shs2.4m.

According to the prosecutors, their monthly salary earnings are not at the same level with their counterparts at the same seniority in other government agencies and institutions under the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS).
The state attorneys point out earnings of a driver in the Inspector General of Government’s (IGG) office who earns slightly over Shs1m a month and an office attendant in the same office who receives salary of Shs1m.
They state in their complaint that a senior IGG officer earns a Shs6.2m a month, the Deputy IGG gets Shs15m and the IGG receives Shs17.8m.

They cited their colleagues at Uganda Law Reform Commission where they aver that a receptionist earns Shs672,564 a month, senior officers get Shs4.1m while a commissioner earns Shs7.4m with the Secretary earning Shs9.7m.
When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Bakibinga yesterday, he confirmed the intention to strike and said their salary grievances have been ignored for a long time.

“On Friday, we are going to meet at Emerald Hotel in Kampala and vote on whether to lay down our tools by not going to court and prosecute criminal cases on behalf of government or vote to have a slow strike of working, say half day or for two hours a day,” Mr Bakibinga said by telephone.
He said after the voting on Friday, the prosecutors will immediately communicate to the Head of Civil Service the outcome of the meeting and demand redress within one week or else they will execute their threat of industrial action.

Mr Bakibinga also lamented that under JLOS institutions, it’s only the DPP staff whose salaries are taxed yet their counterparts in the Judiciary, Police, Prisons and others justice institutions have their salaries tax-exempted.

He also cited other grievances like not receiving allowances for working in hard-to-reach areas, professional practising allowance and promotion.
“Some of our colleagues have stagnated at the same rank for 19 years. This is not fair at all. These are some of the issues that we want Parliament and President Museveni to address,” he charged.
During the tenure of Richard Buteera as DPP about four years ago, he wrote to President Museveni raising the concern about the low pay for prosecutors compared to their counterparts in other JLOS institutions.
“Different levels of remuneration for state attorneys and judicial officers at the same level of seniority in our institutions can only cause disharmony and destroy the unity, uniform performance and efficiency that have been striving for in the whole sector,” Buteera stated in his letter to President Museveni.