Kampala — Non-teaching staff in government universities yesterday called off the 17-day strike after President Museveni promised to solve their grievances on salary enhancement and salary arrears in three months.
The non-teaching staff called off their industrial action following a Tuesday meeting at State House attended by President Museveni, his wife and Education minister Janet Museveni, Finance minister Matia Kasaija, Public Service minister Muruli- Mukasa, repesentatives of all government universities non-teaching staff and representatives of Makerere University Council.
The representative of Makerere University Administration Staff Association, Ms Ruth Iteu, addressed the university non-teaching staff at the Main Building yesterday and briefed them about the outcome of the meeting with the President.
She said the President asked the non-teaching staff to resume work and give him up to three months to settle their grievances. Ms Iteu said government agreed to refund the Shs13 billion allocated for salary enhancement but was later channeled to kick-start the operation of three new public universities.
Ms Iteu said government also agreed to pay them salary arrears amounting to Shs28 billion. This means government will allocate Shs41 billion to non-teaching staff salaries by December. She said the President promised to issue a commitment letter to authenticate his pledges.
Ms Iteu told the Makerere University non-teaching staff that in return, the non-teaching representatives agreed to resume work and convince their colleagues to call off the strike.
Makerere University non-teaching staff yesterday held a general assembly and resolved to call off the strike effective today. A member of the Makerere University Council, Dr Tanga Odoi, told Daily Monitor last evening that the university would open with immediate effect and urged the non-teaching to be in office by 8am today.
He said the new students will report on Saturday while continuing students will report on Sunday. According to Iteu, the President also requested for time to study the consensus document signed between ministry of Education and the striking non-teaching staff.
She said the President told them that he could not commit to fulfilling the promises in the consensus agreement before knowing its contents. The consensus note signed in May is meant to ensure parity between salaries of non-teaching staff and teaching staff doing similar jobs.
Ms Iteu said the President told them not to put him at "gunpoint" because other people such as the medical staff, soldiers and police who are also requesting for a pay raise.
PUNTSEF chair assures staff
The chairman of the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executives Forum (PUNTSEF), Mr Jackson Betihamah, assured Makerere University non-teaching staff that President Museveni would fulfill his promise.
"The President is willing to give us our salary enhancement and arrears. He directed the Finance ministry to pay our arrears in the 2nd quarter as well as refund the Shs13 billion which had been removed," he said, adding that they have agreed to resume work.
The strike had paralysed operations of all public universities since August 1 and delayed the opening of the new academic semester. Public universities, except Mbarara University of Science and Technology, were forced to postpone the opening dates twice.
Mr Betihamah said a committee would be set up to harmonise non-teaching staff salaries in all public universities. He said non-teaching staff at Makerere University Business School had also met and agreed to call off the strike while those at Kyambogo were scheduled to meet last evening and make a similar decision.
There was no similar confirmation of cessation of the strike from Gulu and Busitema universities but Betihamah said he was optimistic all public universities' non-teaching staff would call off the strike.
Makerere University Senior Administration chairperson, Ms Fatimah Nakatudde, said they have registered success in pursuit of their demands.
"We are hopeful we shall get the remaining arrears. Government now knows we can't just be chased and knocked over," she said.
However, the non-teaching staff warned they will resume the strike if government reneges on its promise.
Meanwhile, the Gulu University Vice Chancellor, Prof Jack Nyeko pen-Mogi, told Daily Monitor on telephone that normal work resumed at the university by Tuesday morning.
"We don't have any problem. The non-teaching staff reported and began work," Prof pen-Mogi said.
Mr Robert Mukembo, the university's Guild president, said there was normalcy at the campus.
"We are grateful for government's effort to put an end to the strike," he said.
The non-teaching staff warned they will resume the strike if government reneges on its promise.