Kampala — The Ministry of Public Service yesterday said there is no money for salary enhancement for the striking teachers who began their industrial action countrywide yesterday.
On February 20, teachers through their umbrella, Uganda National Teachers' Union (Unatu) wrote to ministries of Public Service, Finance and Education reminding them of a commitment they made last year to enhance their salaries in 2019/20 financial year.
The teachers gave the government a 90- day ultimatum that elapsed yesterday.
Protracted negotiations between the teachers and government did not yield anything to avert the strike until yesterday when they started their industrial action which forced Ministry of Public Service to call an urgent meeting with various stakeholders today to discuss the matter.
Mr Adam Bukenya, the acting Public Service undersecretary said the minister was in a Cabinet meeting but an official position would be reached at today.
It was not clear though whether the issues of teachers' salary enhancement were discussed during the Cabinet meeting but Mr Bukenya told the teachers that they would meet them today with officials from ministries of Finance, Education and Public Service for discussion on their grievances.
"The minister is in Cabinet today (yesterday). We are waiting for a meeting with all stakeholders tomorrow morning (today)," Mr Bukenya told Daily Monitor.
Asked why they waited until the teachers downed their tools ahead of the opening of the second term, Mr Bukenya responded: "There is no money. That is the truth."
Following a meeting with Unatu district chairpersons early this month, Mr Filbert Baguma, their general secretary, sent a public notice informing the country that unless government gives them salary increment as earlier agreed, they would not report for the second term which begins next Monday.
He told Daily Monitor yesterday that the Unatu members, about 100,000 teachers across the country had gone on strike as government.
"We need to correct the impression that teachers continuously demand salary increment. It is just government which has been defaulting on its words. We have been considerate. We negotiated.
We agreed. We signed the agreement. Let government fulfil this agreement. They had a full year to plan. We gave them a notice three months ago.
They have denied having received it when our records show they got our messages. It is up to government now to shoulder the consequences of this," Mr Baguma said.
"Parliament recently increased allowances of MPs who earn more than teachers. The claim was that the cost of living has gone up.
Aren't they living in Uganda with other Ugandans? ...Do they have their special markets and shops? How come that if it is for other categories, it (salary increment) is realistic but when it comes to teachers, it becomes unrealistic?" he added.
Mr Baguma said the negotiated pay raise they expect was supposed to streamline some of their cadres' salaries at the same level with their colleagues who benefited from the first salary enhancement.
He said, for instance, primary teachers under salary scale U7 who currently earn Shs467,000 per month would get Shs600,000 under the proposed pay enhancement if government honours its pledge while senior education assistants (primary teachers with diploma) will move from Shs550,000 to Shs670,000.
Those under scale U5 (deputy head-teachers in primary and Grade V teachers in both secondary and other tertiary institutions) are supposed to move from Shs670,000 to Shs1.1m as their science counterparts will get an extra Shs100,000.
Head teachers of primary schools and graduate teachers under U4 scale will earn Shs1.7m while their science teaching counterparts will get Shs2.2m.
Head teachers of secondary schools and principals of certificate awarding institutions are supposed to get Shs2.6m. Heads of diploma awarding institutions are supposed to earn Shs3.1m. The proposed teachers' salary increment will cost government Shs22b.
The teachers started negotiations for their salary increment in 2011 following a strike that paralysed all public schools in the country.
The then Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi promised a phased increment in three consecutive financial years.
However, the teachers have struggled to realise the 50 per cent salary increment they settled for more than eight years ago.
NO RAISE FOR 3 YEARS
While updating the public on NRM Manifesto implementation on education last week, the Education Minister, Ms Janet Museveni, said government had not increased salaries for primary teachers because their pay in 2016/17 put them above the pay target in the pay policy approved by Cabinet. "There has been no salary enhancement for primary school teachers in the last three years because increment prior to Financial year 2016/17 put them above the pay targets in the pay policy approved by cabinet," Ms Museveni said.