Makerere University non-teaching and support staff have joined other public universities resolving to withdraw their labor starting August 02, 2015 until government enhances their salaries.
Under their Umbrella, Public Universities’ Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF), they reached at the resolution on Friday evening at Makerere University main hall, led by PUNTSEF chairman Jackson Betihamah.
“We Makerere university non-teaching staff have resolved to lay down our tools with effect from 3rd August until government enhances our salaries. All staff have been advised not to report on duty until further notice. Whoever will be found working will be disciplined,” Said Bruce Twesigye, the Forum’s General Secretary.
Uganda has got six public universities namely; Busitema University, Gulu University, Kyambogo University, Makerere University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Muni University, who have over 4000 employees as non-teaching staff.
They have resolved that all custodians of various buildings including halls of residence should not open, Makerere security to handover to the police station, Registrars should not give out provisional admission forms to joining students, and as well the Directorate of ICT has resolved to shut down all internet facilities among others.
With all public universities set to re-open for new academic year beginning August 8, the strike announcement appears to have been intended to coincide with the opening of the academic year.
Last year, president Museveni promised a pay rise for all academic staff in public universities with a professor earning 15M pro-rata, a pledge that has been fulfilled with government allocating sh50b in the 2015/2016 national budget.
Whereas the presidential pay rise pledge emphasized only academic staff, the non-teaching staff looks at it as unfair, saying instead the president would have pledged to all public universities staff without segregating.
The non teaching staff revealed that they have had enough meetings with all relevant stake holders including the minister of education, the prime minister, the public service parliamentary committee among others but they have all turned a deaf ear.
They are demanding Shs39bn for this financial year 2015/2016 compared to 50bn that was allocated to the academic staff.
In a closed-door meeting chaired by Education minister Jessica Alupo, on Thursday the workers had vowed that nothing will deter them from laying down their tools come Monday August 03, after the minister said government did not have any money to meet their demands.
“We are aware that they are to lay down their tools but we are not able to enhance their salaries this financial year as requested because government has financial constraints and has to keep other public sectors running,” said the minister .
Mr. Jackson Betihamah, the chairperson of the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF), said he was disappointed with the meeting.
“I think they just called us here to make us drink their tea which was not even enough due to the large numbers from PUNTSEF,” Betihamah told Red Pepper.
“Where is it written that when academic staff gets pay rise, non-academic staff gets satisfied? Let the government learn to respect her employees. It is every laborers right to get a better pay without discrimination, and the only tool we have is to withdraw the labor which is our right, and the only tool to fight this discrimination,” said PUNTSEF chairman Jackson Betihamah.
They have noted that the segregation of enhancing salary for one category of staff and leaving out others is discriminatory, unfair, demotivating, destroys team work and will negatively affect the achievement of the institutions’ goals and objectives.
Guild President Supports PUNTSEF
Makerere University guild president, Bala David Bwiruka told the staff, that as students’ leaders they support the industrial action, but also warned that with two weeks remaining for the semester to begin, the students might also take action.
“The struggle you are in is a struggle against injustice and for us as students’ guild we have sat and agreed that we will support you. When things become abnormal you also become abnormal. As guild presidents in all public universities, we are meeting next week Tuesday where we shall arrange to meet the minister for Education and the IGP to chat a way forward,”Bala said.
Makerere university convocation also approved the industrial action and they said they support anything to do with the staff welfare.
“Makerere convocation represents all staff students and the alumni therefore we shall support anything to do with the staff welfare .We want to assure you that we will not depart from that mandate and hence we are supporting you,” said Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi the Publicity secretary of the convocation.
Makerere has since set up the industrial action committee that will oversee everything to ensure that no worker reports on duty.
The committee is comprised of Bruce Twesigye, Yunus Musisi, Denis Mbabazi, Francis Angida, Wilberforce Bubolu, Joseph Musoke, Isaac Egesa, Nelson Akampulira, John K Muhumuza and Justine Namuddu.
In a petition dated April 19th that was presented to the speaker of parliament through the clerk, the staff observed that, the proposed enhancement will be in gross violation of the principle of equal opportunity and a clear act of open discrimination among the three categories of staff of public universities of Uganda.
“We request that the proposed gradual enhancement of the salaries should cover all the categories of the workers in all public universities on pro-rata to enable us to avoid the pain staking and laborious industrial and court action by all public universities including the upcoming new ones Muni and Soroti,” reads the petition.
“We don’t like strikes neither, but we have been stretched to do so. We gave 21 days as required by law to give room for negotiations. There are supplementary budgets and budgetary omissions where they can get this money from. For us we need only Shs39bn, for this financial year,” Bruce Twesigye said.
Twesigye revealed that, they have already written to the minister of education, and also copied the Speaker of Parliament, Prime minister, Minister of Public Service, Presidency, IGP, Councils to all Public Universities and other relevant Parliamentary Committees.