Uganda: We Have Other Priorities, Government Tells Striking Teachers

(file photo).

Kampala — The hopes of striking teachers to get salary increment were yesterday cast down after government told them it has bigger priorities to address other than enhancing salaries.

In a letter to all Public Service labour unions, Mr David Karubanga, the State minister for Public Service, said government's priorities are completing oil infrastructure, power stations, projects to address youth empowerment and employment, defence and security, revival of Uganda Airlines and construction of irrigation schemes to address climate change.

Although Mr Karubanga said government was committed to implementing the five-year pay target Cabinet approved last year, only Shs62.89 billion was provided for the second phase of which 13.8 billion will be for the health sector while Shs49 billion is for education.

"The second phase which was supposed to be financed in the Financial Year 2019/20 has been deliberated on alongside the other competing critical government priorities. Ensure workers under your jurisdiction continue to provide services as required of them," Mr Karubanga wrote.

Mr Filbert Baguma, the Uganda National Teachers' Union (Unatu) general secretary, yesterday cast doubt on government's commitment insisting they will continue with the strike as the letter does not address their grievances.

"We shall continue the strike until government fulfils what we agreed on. There is nothing committal in that letter. It doesn't address any issue about the collective bargaining agreement. Even when they say Shs49 billion is for education, what is it going to do and how? The letter itself doesn't have anything convincing. There is no substance in this letter. Our teachers should remain firm as we continue with the struggle," Mr Baguma said after receiving the letter from Mr Karubanga, dated May 21.

The teachers started their industrial action on Monday a week to the opening of second term.

Earlier in the day yesterday, the Workers Members of Parliament weighed in to support the teachers' cause to push for their salary enhancement.

Ms Margaret Rwabushaija, a Workers MP said: "There are procedures spelt out in the Constitution for an aggrieved public servant to follow. The teachers negotiated with government and they agreed. They gave notice and government didn't respond. Government should honour their pledge. We support the teachers' strike."

Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, explained that the Shs49 billion will be used to harmonise the disparities which were created after government paid the first phase of salary increment.

In a separate letter of May 17 from Ministry of Finance's Mr Patrick Ocailap to Ministry of Education, asked Mr Kakooza to provide him with a breakdown of the wage for administrative science cadres in health and education left out in the first phase of pay enhancement for scientists in FY2019/20.

"Reference is made to my letter of May 7, requesting you to provide a detailed allocation of Shs49 billion that was provided to address the salary disparities in your sector. Despite a follow up and constant reminders, you have failed to submit the detailed schedule for allocation of the wage enhancement to enable finalisation of corrigenda. We are left with no choice but to exclude the detailed allocation from corrigenda which has been submitted to Parliament," Mr Ocailap noted.

However, Mr Kakooza yesterday said they had sent the schedule although they had to first verify with each affected individual from the various institutions across the country.

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