Tell striking health workers how much they will earn

Mulago Hospital nurses during a strike over low payment in 2018. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The issue: Striking health workers

Our view:  Besides equity, the whole process needs to be transparent if it is to be embraced by all. Government says Shs400b has been budgeted for the process, but people it affects do not know if they will benefit, or if they do, by how much.

This week, Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) members started a strike over low pay. Of the 120,000 nurses Uganda has, 27,000 are employed by government and they want their salaries revised upwards and better working conditions.

A week ago, doctors under their body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), asked government to fulfil the promised salary increment in the coming financial year or else they lay down their tools. The doctors went on strike for a month in November last year over the same demands.

The warning by doctors came in the same week that about 30,000 allied health professionals went on strike over low pay and poor working conditions. Allied health professionals comprise of medical clinical officers, clinical psychiatrists, laboratory scientists, radiographers, records officers, and dental technicians.

In November 2021, about 10,000 medical laboratory technicians went on strike because of low pay and failure to absorb their degree, masters and PhD holders in public service, among other reasons. Around the same period, medical interns lay down their tools over similar demands.

This paints a picture of a health sector in coma, and a permanent solution needs to be found to settle this recurring problem once and for all.

We commend government for committing to increase the salaries of scientists in the coming financial year, but we hope the Shs400b earmarked for this exercise will be shared equitably so that some scientists do not feel less valued than the others.

Already we see some disgruntlement within hospital corridors. Nurses say those with degrees get Shs2m and a medical doctor with a degree gets double that salary, which they say shows that nurses are not valued even when they spend around the same period in school to obtain a degree.

Besides equity, the whole process needs to be transparent if it is to be embraced by all. Government says Shs400b has been budgeted for the process, but people it affects do not know if they will benefit, or if they do, by how much.

This partly explains the calls for industrial action by medical workers as the new financial year draws near. Because of past unfulfilled pledges, the scientists seem sceptical, and rightfully so.

Government needs to come out and explain to the scientists how much everyone will take home, otherwise the secrecy surrounding the process only brews suspicion and could otherwise derail a good exercise.

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