2 February 2012

Uganda: Teachers Reject 15 Percent Pay Rise Offer

Teachers have rejected the government offer of a 15 per cent salary increment, describing it as a "mockery".

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, the Secretary General of the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu), Ms Teopista Birungi, said their agitation for better welfare has just begun. The teachers want 100 per cent pay rise.

"The teachers clearly state and reject the offer of 15 per cent as a mockery. We don't want the government to think that they are doing us a favour," said Ms Birungi. "Teachers demand to be involved in the negotiation process. We want to understand what package primary and secondary teachers will be getting."

Ms Birungi questioned government's honesty and commitment, wondering why it had excluded teachers in the budgeting process for the 2012/2013 budget.

The address came two days after police blocked a teachers meeting at Bat Valley Primary School in Kampala, accusing one of the conveners, Mr Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu West MP, of failing to follow proper procedure.

Mr Ssewungu, a former teacher and now an MP, who sits on the Social Services Committee, wanted teachers to "review issues pending from last year". Teachers last year downed their tools demanding better wages but the strike was called off after Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi threatened that they would be deleted from the payroll.

With the help of security operatives, teachers were pushed back into class.

But Ms Birungi warned that the teachers are withdrawn and unless government acts, the impact will be far reaching.

"The government may think it got satisfaction when the Prime Minister last year forced the teachers back to class. Is that the government's interest of sending your children to school and they are not learning? Where is the mechanism to measure their output? she asked. "Unatu calls upon all Ugandans to hold government accountable for the subsequent education crisis that may result," she added.

As the police blocked Mr Ssewungu's meeting, Education Minister Jessica Alupo addressed a media briefing at the Uganda Media Centre to "explain progress made by government on resolving teachers' grievances."

The minister said government had committed to a rolled salary enhancement plan over a three- year period starting with the financial year 2012/2013 which will see the teachers' salaries moved up by 50 per cent.

In real terms, within the next three years, if the government's plan is followed, the lowest paid teacher will see their salary grow from the current Shs273,000 to Shs409,500 before taxes.

The current offer of 15 per cent in the next financial year will add only about Shs40,000, an amount the teachers say is ridiculous given the high inflation and general cost of living.

Ms Birungi expressed disappointment that Ministry of Public Service had failed to honour its commitment to ensure formal salary negotiation. "Unatu is disappointed that while Public Service committed (itself) to establishing a stop-gap measure to ensure formal salary negotiation in the ongoing budgetary cycle, it's already four months into the process and the union has not been involved. We demand that we are involved such that any decisions on the teachers' grievances will have a far reaching impact on the learning of the children."

During last year's strike, President Museveni also asked line ministries to meet teachers and find solutions to their demands.

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