The Observer (Kampala)

25 March 2014

Uganda: Makerere Staff Threaten to Strike Over Pension Arrears

Teaching and non-teaching staff who contribute to the Makerere University Retirement Benefits Scheme (Murbs) have threatened to strike over disparities and delays in payments.

Speaking at a recent retirement planning sensitisation workshop, Murbs Secretary John Kitayimbwa complained that, informally, there were two schemes - one for the 'poor' and the other for top management.

"Friends, there are two types of pension schemes at Makerere. One is for the poor, which is ours. The university gives us 10 per cent and we contribute five per cent of our monthly salaries.

The other scheme is for the top management. These get 25 per cent from the university and do not make any contribution. This is given as gratuity," Kitayimbwa said.

The discrepancy, Kitayimbwa added, was why the university was unwilling to pay the retirement benefits.

"The reason why the university is not willing to address this issue [of paying pension arrears to those that have retired] is because they have their own scheme," he said.

Murbs has taken the university to court over unpaid arrears dating as far back as March 2008, and yet part of the retirement package is supposed to be paid within one month of retirement. The case has been adjourned to June 11, 2014.

Members also wondered why the university did not want to pay the benefits unless it was dragged to court.

"No one has got their retirement benefits except those who have gone to court. Unite with others and demand [your] retirement benefits," said Prof James Ntozi, who retired but continues to do some work at the university.

Allan Mugabi, from the department of Architecture and Physical Planning, said: "Why is Makerere so stingy with the money that is not theirs?"

Murbs officials could not comment or disclose the amount of the arrears. They said the matter was in court and it would be sub judice to make a comment.

Threats

Ntozi said there was no better time to demand the benefits.

"I am telling my younger colleagues to support us [who are already retired] to get our retirement [benefits]. This is the time for Makerere employees to [demand] retirement benefits not only from Makerere but also from government," he said.

Kitayimbwa said there was a "need to rise and fight for our benefits" since the university was unwilling to pay up. Dr Fred Tanga Odoi, a former chairperson of the academic staff association, proposed industrial action.

"We can't get the money diplomatically. How long do we give the board to negotiate so that we don't go to class next semester in case the pension arrears have not been paid?" Tanga asked amidst cheers from the members.

But University spokesperson Rita Namisango told The Observer by email last week that everything was in order.

"The mandatory scheme to which most of the staff make contributions is in place. The funds are now managed by Murbs and the members of staff now get their money on retirement," she said.

The scheme

The University Council introduced the in-house scheme in July 1996, fully funded by the university. However, with time, it became very difficult to run due to lack of funds, and the council closed it in March 2009.

It was replaced by the mandatory scheme, whose money was initially contributed to the National Insurance Corporation (NIC). When the university and staff pulled out of the NIC deal, the funds were placed in the custody of Murbs.

Sensitisation

Murbs Chairperson Fatuma Nakatudde encouraged the members to make voluntary contributions to the scheme, saying the mandatory five per cent was too small.

"Come and make commitments to the board and we shall discuss the conditions and access," she said.

Members were sensitised on how to save and invest their retirement benefits. Facilitators included Fulgence Mungereza of Mungereza and Kalisa Consults; Edna Rugumayo, a board member representing the certified professional accountants; and Kaka Sudesh of Sudesh Management Consult.

Mungereza cautioned the members to appreciate the rules of a business before investing their retirement benefits there.

"Don't get into a business because your neighbour is into it or because someone tells you there is money. Make sure you know the rules of the business," Mungereza said.

Rugumayo urged members to secure the future today: "Invest early into your health. Do not wait to reach 50 and then you think about your health. You need to eat well, exercise and have regular health checks."

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