Public university staff call strike over pay

Wednesday January 27 2021
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Makerere University graduates jubilate at their 70th graduation ceremony in Kampala on January 15, 2020. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA.

By Damali Mukhaye

The teaching  staff in all public universities across Uganda have resolved to lay down their tools effective February 6 if their demands for salary enhancement are not met. 

The strike comes at a time when some universities including Makerere have set  February 6  and 11 as the reporting date for continuing students and first year students, respectively, should government reopen institutions.

The chairperson of the Forum for Academic Staff Association in Public Universities (FAPSU), Mr Deus Kamunyu, said the leadership of staff associations met in May 2020 and resolved to go on strike in June 2020 but this was not possible due to Covid-19 lockdown.

Mr Kamunyu said it was not possible for government to increase their pay at a time when the economy was still struggling. He added that the staff agreed to continue teaching finalists, who are now awaiting graduation. 

Mr Kamunyu said President Museveni directed the Public Service docket to allocate Shs179.24b for full enhancement of salaries for academic staff in all public universities at Shs15m for a professor. He said with this, a lecturer would be seen earning Shs12.2m.

“To our  dismay, only vice chancellors, deputy vice chancellors and professors were fully enhanced in the Financial Year 2020/2021 and the rest were left out so the  government should fulfil its promise,” Mr Kamunyu said.

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At the moment, a lecturer in a public university is earning about Shs7m.
 The strike has, however, not been welcomed by Makerere University administrators who have since written to FAPSU leadership warning it to desist from misleading its staff.

“FASPU is not recognised under the Uganda and Other Tertiary Institutions Act as a staff association and any perceived undertaking by it on behalf of staff of Makerere University. You are strongly advised  to desist from any further dealing under the umbrella of FASPU aimed at destabilising activities at the university,” the January 22 letter from the Vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe,  reads in part.

The same warning letter is addressed to the FAPSU general secretary, Mr Robert Kakuru, who also signed the industrial action letter.

A January 25 letter from the acting director of human resource, Mr Lawrence Ssanyu, addressed to all staff at Makerere University dares them to go on strike at their own risk.

Mr Ssanyu said staff should take note of the response from minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni reinforcing government commitment to remunerate public officers over the medium and long term.

“Take note of the response from the minister and prepare to commence work as soon as the university is opened for students  and also ensure that Makerere University provides the most attractive and conducive academic environment,” the letter notes in part.

Mr Ssanyu also warned that the staff intending strike must follow the legal procedures.

However, Mr Kamunyu said it is not in order for prof Nawangwe to continue threatening staff whenever they stand up to raise issues affecting them.

Public service says
The minister of Public Service, Mr Muruli Mukasa, in a press conference last year said government did not have money to increase salaries of all staff at 100 per cent, adding that this would be done in phases.

He advised the staff to appreciate the government effort because their salaries are above what their colleagues in Public Service are earning.
editorial@ug.nationmedia.com 

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