Why teachers bowed to govt pressure and called off strike

Over 200 teachers met with President Museveni on July 4, 2022 in Kampala to discuss their strike that was nearing a month. PHOTO/PPU

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni reiterated government’s science-led strategy as teachers vowed to continue discussions over their salary enhancement.

After three weeks of laying down their tools, the Arts teachers have finally bowed to government pressure and decided to call off the strike.

This was after President Museveni engaged them for the second time during a meeting at Kololo Independence Grounds, Kampala, yesterday. 

The President directed teachers to resume work and insisted that for now, scientists would be a priority for salary enhancement.

He used his social media platform to share some of the issues that were discussed.

Mr Museveni said he provided a position as government and pledged to competitively remunerate workers guided by science-led strategy. 

The President assured the teachers that this strategy does not mean  he has forgotten others, but he chose to prioritise the few and others can come later. 

“We must finish one problem at a time. I assured them that while the government acknowledges the issues raised by the Arts teachers, we are also aware of salary issues from other workers, the army, police officers, among others. They are equally important to the growth and development of this country,” Mr Museveni tweeted.

He said while the Arts teachers insist that government should use the available resources to improve salaries across board, it does not solve the issue because employees will get a small increment and strike the following year over the same matter.
The President then directed the teachers to return to class.

“My advice is go back and teach. Please don’t divert us from our journey of attracting and retaining scientists by paying them comparatively and competitively. Don’t interfere with government’s strategy,” Mr Museveni  said.

After the Kololo meeting, the teachers headed to Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) head offices in Kampala to make the final decision. After three hours of consultations, they agreed to call off the strike.

Addressing journalists in Kampala after the meeting, the general secretary of the Unatu, Mr Filbert Baguma, said the decision to call off the strike was reached after holding an in-depth discussion with their members, workers MPs and the leadership of the National Organisational of Trade Unions (Notu).

“After the Kololo meeting, we came here as leaders of the Union. We had over three hours discussing and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the two options we had at our disposal and we realised that for the interest of our innocent learners and for the interest of our members, the discussions need to continue and, therefore, we opted to take the direction of suspending the industrial action while the discussions continue,” Mr Baguma said.
He directed the teachers to resume work today.

“Teachers who are at home starting from tomorrow (today) will go back to school. The leaders are going to travel overnight and therefore, we expect them to inform members. We hope the teachers go back by Wednesday,” he said.

Mr Baguma said they would continue to give constant updates to members and the public on the ongoing engagements with the government.  

He, however, said negotiations are not about winning but agreeing to take the right direction. 
“When you are negotiating, it is not a matter of saying I must win. It is a give and take,”  Mr Baguma said.

He commended teachers for their resilience and solidarity.
“All is not lost, we continue with the struggle until harmony is realised in salary enhancement,” Mr Baguma said.

He also denied allegations that Unatu leadership has been bribed by the government to call off the strike.

“This is not true. There is a rumour flying over social media that the leaders have been bribed. The leaders have a responsibility to take leadership and therefore, if you don’t take over your membership, then you can take them to a wrong direction. That is why we had those three hours discussing what is it that can benefit our members and also consider the person who is at the centre of this - the learner,” he said.

Mr Wilson Usher Owere, the Notu chairman general, said the Kololo meeting was cordial and brought the President closer to the teachers.

“The first meeting that took place in Entebbe was not cordial and both parties left when everybody was disgruntled . That means that there was totally breakdown of negotiation,” Mr Owere said.

Regarding the Kololo meeting, Mr Owere said: “We had to come back here (Unatu offices) to consult each other to see what we could do because whatever we are negotiating with government is for teachers. What we have agreed in totality is to suspend the strike as negotiations go on.” 

“I want to assure teachers that we have set the ball rolling and the struggle continues. It doesn’t matter how long it will take us, but we are trying our  best to see that the salaries for all public servants are increased, the disparity has created conflicts which we need to mitigate. The President has listened to the teachers and taken their message s seriously,” he added.