How scientists will share Shs400b for salary raise

Allied health professionals, including members of Uganda Association for Orthopedic Technologists and Uganda Medical Laboratory Technology Association, during a press conference in Kampala on April 25. PHOTO / TONNY ABET

What you need to know:

  • Dr Abed Bwanika, the Kimanya-Kabonera County MP, and Dr Denis Kibira of Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda, told this reporter earlier that selectively enhancing the salary of particular workers will not heal civil servants’ grievances.

The manner in which the government plans to allocate Shs400b for scientists’ salary enhancement has elicited both excitement and bitterness among would-be recipients.

Revelations of the detailed expenditure plans yesterday prompted umbrella bodies representing 60,000 allied health professionals and Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union (UPSTU), citing “disparities”, to pre-empt plans by their members to go on strike next month.

Allied health professionals, who include clinical officers, laboratory technologists, psychiatric officers, physiotherapists, radiologists, and dental technologists, among others, said the leaked pay rise favours doctors.

News of the planned strike contrasts with a decision by Uganda Medical Association (UMA), a body of 7,000 doctors, to backpedal on their intended May 1 industrial action following what officials said was favourable government response on their demands.

Unfair increment?

Mr Patrick Alibu, the secretary-general of Uganda Medical Laboratory Technology Association (UMLTA), said at a joint press statement of allied health professionals: “[The] government apportioned a big percentage of money to scales U4, U3, U2 and U1, giving minimal consideration for U5, U6, U7 and U8 where the majority of the health workforce belongs and actually do the donkey work in health service delivery.”

Mr Alibu explained that according to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) of 2017, that they signed with the government, health workers holding diploma and those on U5 scale should take home Shs3m, while certificate holders on U7 scale bag Shs1.3m per month.

The diploma holders are currently getting Shs1.2m and certificate holders take about Shs500,000. In the enhanced salary, the diploma holders stand to get Shs2m monthly and Shs1m for certificate holders, allocations that officials said contravened the CBA deal.

“We are saying [that] this kind of discriminative salary increment is unjust, and it’s an attempt to [undermine and under-look] our contribution to health service care delivery. We all work like [a] body’s system that has different organs, but all contributing to the wellbeing and functioning of the body,” the UMLTA secretary general said.

However, Public Service ministry, which has branded circulating scientists’ salary enhancement structure as “rumours”, yesterday asked health workers and scientists to be patient because the final pay grade is yet to be announced.

“All health workers, whether local government or allied health, all of them are in [to benefit]. Altogether, there is Shs400b for the salary enhancement and the information about the salary structure will be out as soon as Cabinet tells us to release it,”  Ms Catherine Bitarakwate, the ministry Permanent Secretary, said.

“All health professional, including morgue attendants, will benefit,” she said.

“You cannot get all your expectation, but they will definitely get what is way better than what they have been earning,” she said, adding: “Even me, I may choose to say that there are other chief executive officers [in government] getting Shs35m [per month]. So, must I climb a tree because I have been given Shs15m [as PS]?”

The ministry needs at least Shs932b to fully enhance salary of all scientists, according to inside sources.

In interviews last month, both Finance minister Matia Kasaija and his Information counterpart Chris Baryomunsi confirmed a Cabinet decision to enhance scientists’ salaries as President Museveni has repeatedly promised.

But like UMA members, the allied health professionals also want the government to reduce taxes on their salaries from 30 percent to 10 percent amid rising cost of living.

The health sector has been rocked by back-to-back industrial actions over pay and working conditions, the latest by medical records officers.

The professionals yesterday said Health, their parent ministry, failed to ensure equal treatment and remuneration across board.

The UPSTU, on the other had, said on April 21, that their national executive committee resolved that “effective May 9, 2022, all science teachers across the country will lay down tools”.

The timing of the planned protest coincides with the reopening of schools for second term.

“Stop diverting funds [98b provided in 2018/2019 Financial Year] meant to enhance salaries for science teachers. Pay graduate Science teachers Shs4m and Grade Five like other scientists,” the science teachers argued.

A science teacher currently earns Shs1.2m per month, according to information from Public Service ministry.

Before calling off their strike on Tuesday, Dr Samuel Oledo, the UMA president, had said they planned a repeat strike from May 1 because increments reflected for the other doctors from special grade (specialist) up to the senior consultants were not in line with the President’s directive.

“The medical officers got the enhancement they needed (from Shs3m to Shs5m), but other higher-grade doctors and consultants didn’t,” he said.

President Museveni had ordered a minimum of Shs5m for the entry-level medical officer, or doctor, and Shs20m monthly pay for the highest officer, which is a senior consultant.

According to a copy of a document said to be from the Ministry of Public Service, which this newspaper has seen, senior consultants, who are currently earning Shs7.3m per month, will get Shs8.7m from July, lower than what UMA negotiated.

On Tuesday, Dr Herbert Luswata, the UMA secretary general, said they received a positive signal that grievances birthing the May strike are being resolved.  

Dr Luswata said he had been informed that allocations of “Shs20m for a senior consultant, Shs15m for a consultant, Shs10m for a specialist, Shs5m entry-level medical officer” have been made.

If not implemented, UMA members will lay down tools on May 31, he said.

Poor planning

Dr Abed Bwanika, the Kimanya-Kabonera County MP, and Dr Denis Kibira of Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda, told this reporter earlier that selectively enhancing the salary of particular workers will not heal civil servants’ grievances.

“There should be a [salary review] commission to harmonise the pay of all civil servants, not only scientists,” Dr Bwanika, a former unsuccessful presidential candidate, said, resurrecting a long-standing debate.

Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode), expressed similar sentiments, arguing that “when you increase doctors’ salaries right now, another group will rise and then another one. It can bring the government to its knees”.

Background

Salary changes from next financial year (July)

Medical officers: Shs3m to Shs5m

Medical specialist: Shs4.5m to Shs10m

Consultant: Shs6m to Shs15m

Senior consultant: Shs7.3m to Shs20m

Nurses and other health workers (certificate holders): Shs613,000 to Shs1m

Nurses and other health personnel (diploma holders): Shs1.2m to Shs2m

Source: Uganda Medical Association and Ministry of Public Service

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