Kampala — Science teachers have accused the Uganda National Teachers' Union (Unatu) leaders of sabotage and betraying their demand for a better pay and are now seeking to break away and start their own union.
Mr Peter Okello, the national coordinator of science teachers, yesterday said when President Museveni proposed to increase salaries for science teachers, Unatu leadership opposed it without giving them a reason.
The government subsequently stopped paying the money after some of the beneficiaries had enjoyed the pay raise for two months.
"This was the worst betrayal Unatu did to all teachers. This was an opportunity the profession had to be well paid. It was extinguished by Unatu leadership when it fought tooth and nail to block salary increment of science and mathematics teachers as promised by the President. The Shs2m was a fair money that would make teaching attractive," Mr Okello said.
Mr Museveni last year proposed that salary of graduate science teachers be increased from the monthly Shs600,000 to Shs1.9m while diploma holders were to see theirs raised from Shs625,067 to Shs1.7m. Head teachers with science qualifications also were to have their salaries increased from Shs1.7m to Shs2.5m and their deputies from Shs1.5m to Shs1.7m.
But his proposal was rejected by Members of Parliament on the basis that an increment for only science teachers would offend the law on discrimination.
However, the science teachers argue that if the money had been in the 2017/2018 budget, their Arts counterparts would have a reason to seek legal redress.
"The only way that will now reverse the entire mistake of Unatu is to form a parallel union for Science and Mathematics teachers," said Mr Okello, a Biology and Chemistry teacher at Sir Samuel Baker School, Gulu.
It is proposed that their union would be named National Mathematics and Science Teachers' Union (NAMASITU).
The Unatu general secretary, Mr Filbert Baguma, yesterday denied that the union fought the President's decision to increase the science teachers' salaries.
He said as key people who have been pushing government to improve the teachers' welfare since 2011, their request last year was that before government increases salaries for a section of their people, they must first clear the arrears accrued during the 2011 negotiations.
Following a teachers' sit-down strike about nine years ago, government and the union leadership then under Mr James Tweheyo as general secretary settled for a 50 per cent salary increment phased in three years that ended a nearly two-month paralysis in public schools.
The government faltered on the payments in the subsequent years. It was until last year that the current leadership took advantage of the President's new proposal to compel government to pay the last instalment of 15 per cent to the post primary teachers.
'Government made clearances'
"We reminded government of their earlier commitment which they hadn't realised. We asked them to first clear the backlog. The science teachers were beneficiaries of that last year. After government paid that commitment, there was nothing left to effect the President's proposal. That can't be treated as blocking," Mr Baguma told Daily Monitor.
He said they were waiting for the President's communication in July after the latter requested that the recent industrial action be suspended.
On teachers leaving Unatu, Mr Baguma said: "We don't mind government coming up with an allowance to encourage innovation. There is no reason one degree should be above the other in weight. These are all teachers entrusted with our children. Government should find a way of solving problems but not creating divisions among civil servants. Ugandans are all equal before the law."