Public servants move to join teachers’ strike

Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the chairman of Notu

What you need to know:

  • Nine public service unions signed a solidarity agreement with Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) to join the strike if government goes ahead to delete particulars of no-show teachers  on the payroll.

Public service workers have threatened to join ongoing Arts teachers’ strike and rebuked tactics by the government to intimidate comrades in the struggle against what they called “a biased salary increment”.

Nine public service unions signed a solidarity agreement with Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) to join the strike if government goes ahead to delete particulars of no-show teachers  on the payroll.

 The resolution was made yesterday during a meeting chaired by Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the chairman of National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu), at Unatu offices in Kampala.

This followed a controversial directive by the government on June 15 ordering the teachers to either return to classrooms or risk being sacked and scrapped off the payroll for absconding from duty.

In a letter that irked the teachers and fellow public servants, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service, Mr Catherine Bitarakwate, termed the industrial action illegal and ordered them back to duty starting June 22.

 The unionised public servants had no kind words for the PS, admonished the letter as “sheer intimidation” and unanimously resolved that the PS withdraws the letter to pave way for renegotiation of the Collective Bargain Agreement.

 In  unison

Mr Owere castigated the PS for calling the teachers’ strike illegal and asked teachers to remain strong in the face of intimidation.

He requested the government to allow renegotiations and create a good environment for teachers to express their grievances.

“Public service should withdraw the letter written to Unatu threatening the teachers because it is wrong and against the law. Workers have rights to their Labour as long as they follow the law, which was done by the teachers under the leadership of the Union,” Mr Owere said.

“The PS has erred by writing the letter and yet she knows the government refused to honour the Collective Bargaining Agreements government signed with its workers.”

 Some of the Unions in solidarity with the Arts teachers included Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, Uganda Local Government Workers Union, and National Uganda Government and Allied Workers Union.

Unatu’s view

Mr Filbert Baguma, the secretary general of Unatu, welcomed the developments.  “They had come to show solidarity to Unatu because they are signatories to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, therefore, they came here to support us,” Mr Baguma said.

 He added: “They have vowed that should government continue with this kind of intimidation, they are going to call upon their members to join teachers in the industrial action as a sign of togetherness.”

Mr Baguma said they were staying the course of action until their grievances are addressed.

Yesterday, the date of the ultimatum given by Public Service elapsed with schools remaining closed as teachers stayed away.

Arts teachers went on strike after the government increased the salary of science teachers, leaving the arts counterparts out, a stance they say is unfair and contradicts the bargaining agreement.

The Minister for Public service, Mr Muruli Mukasa, said the PS’s letter does not in any way “denote force” but simply another aspect of engagement, which will likely speed up the negotiations. 

“The advice is Unatu should call off the strike, mobilise the teachers to go back to work and engage in constructive discussions with the government,” he said.

He said cabinet is yet to deliberate on the creation of a salary review body, adding that it would be presented as soon as the “agenda allows”

Organisations that met

1. National Organisation of Trade Unions .Umbrella Board of 34 Unions in Uganda (Notu)

2. Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU)

3. Uganda Local Government workers Union (ULGWU)

4. National Uganda Government and Allied Workers Union (NUGAWU)

5. Uganda Government Allied Workers Union (UGAWU)

6. Uganda Liberal Teachers Union (ULITU)

7. UPASU

8. USRAW

9.  UPWU

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