Govt, police officers lock horns over wages


What you need to know:

  • The government holds that legal officers were being paid wages as professionals yet they were recruited as arts graduates, who earn less. Consequently, the legal officers at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police, who have been earning Shs5.6m and above per month, are now going to get Shs700,000 like any other arts graduate in the Force.

The Public Service ministry has blocked the November salaries of over 170 police legal officers on account of the government erroneously paying them more money.

The government holds that legal officers were being paid wages as professionals yet they were recruited as arts graduates, who earn less. Consequently, the legal officers at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police, who have been earning Shs5.6m and above per month, are now going to get Shs700,000 like any other arts graduate in the Force.

A senior police source, who attended several meetings where the issue was discussed, told the Monitor that officials from the Public Service ministry insist that the professional salaries for police lawyers was “given in error” and they are “correcting the mistake.”

Several affected officers corroborated the development, revealing that they haven’t received their November salary. They also added that talks are ongoing with the Public Service ministry to resolve the issue “without causing unnecessary litigation.”

According to a source, the Public Service ministry insists that the officers—who are at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police and above—were hired as general duties officers and not legal officers. The officers have drawn the salary of legal officers since 2014.

Standoff

One of the affected officers said if the Public Service ministry maintains its stance, they will be left with no choice but to seek legal redress.

“You can’t say that we have been earning such a pay in error when you recruited us as legal officers,” our source said, adding, “They even indicated it in the recruitment advertisement in the papers that they wanted lawyers to apply and we indeed came forward. If they cut our salaries, we will sue the government.”

According to the Public Service standards, lawyers in different government agencies are supposed to earn a uniform amount. Some agencies have, however, interpreted the regulations differently, causing confusion and legal battles.

Efforts to get a comment from police spokesperson Fred Enanga were futile. According to a source, Mr Enanga attended the police meetings in which the police lawyers’ salary issue was discussed.

Mr Enanga’s deputy, Ms Claire Nabakka, declined to comment on the matter, saying her boss is better placed to speak about the issue.

Ms Lynn Ampumuza Bwiza, the Public Service ministry spokesperson, also declined to comment on the matter, and referred us to Permanent Secretary Catherine Bitarakwate. Our calls to Ms Bitarakwate went unanswered by press time.

Thorny issue

The salary of legal officers in the police has been a thorny issue for years. In 2008, 35 lawyers in the Force—including top police officers, who were earning less than their legal colleagues in public services—sued government for discrimination in pay. They won the court case, prompting the government to increase their salaries to the level of other lawyers in public service.

In 2016, salaries of some legal officers, who had been recruited during the 2013/2014 intake, were cut from Shs1.2 million to Shs601,341 months after they had joined the police. They instructed their lawyer, Mr John Isabirye, to seek legal redress.

“Lawyers working with police must be paid the same rate as other lawyers working in government. They (police lawyers) get a payslip indicating Shs1.2 million, but they earn Shs600,000,” Mr Isabirye said in 2016.

At that time, Mr Enanga reasoned that when the Force is recruiting, it indicates the number of professionals—like lawyers or engineers—it wants. He proceeded to reveal that if the Force gets the figure, other applicants of the same qualifications can be taken in as non-professional officers.

The affected officers said they got appointment letters indicating that they were legal officers and their salary scale was properly indicated.

After months of talks, the police management paid them salaries at the same rate like other lawyers working for the government.

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