Uganda: Govt varsities get Shs29b but vow to stay on strike

Kampala. Public universities have vowed to continue with the strike despite government releasing the Shs29b for their salary

enhancement arreas and insisted even the Shs4.3b arrears for the support staff must be paid before they call off their industrial action.

In a release announced on Tuesday, the Ministry of Finance indicated that it had released the Shs29.5b which included arrears of salary enhancement for academic staff and the Shs4.3b arrears for the support staff of all government universities.
However, members of the Public

Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF) and Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda (FASPU) are not satisfied.

“Reference is made to your letter dated December 21, 2018 to the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury.

In this letter, you allocated a total of Shs29.5b, including Shs4.3b for scale M10-M22 which was negotiated separately from the original Shs29.5b of all staff in public universities,” the striking staff wrote to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Service on January 9, 2019.

“Therefore, the correct total allocation should be Shs33.8b.

The purpose of this letter is to ask your office to make correct allocation which will reflect Shs29.5b and the Shs4.3b giving a total of Shs33.8b,” the letter adds.

Mr Jackson Betihamah, the chairperson of PUNTSEF, said they would remain resolute in demanding their entitlements.

“What has happened with the Ministry for Public Service to release the Shs29b is acceptable, but the fact is that they know that we also need the Shs4.3b which is additional to what they have released.

These two negotiations were different because we negotiated for the Shs29b separately and the Shs4.3b was the arrears, so putting the arrears in the Shs29b is totally unacceptable,” Mr Betihamah said.

He said the ministry of Finance should ensure what they agreed on is implemented.

“We agreed in a meeting with the Ministry of Finance that the Shs4.3b will be given the first priority before any enhancement is done. So the Shs4.3b cannot be part of the Shs29b,” Mr Betihamah said.

“We believe they will organise themselves and give us the Shs4.3b before the workers can resume work.

On this note, I am calling on all the workers in the public universities and Uganda Management Institute to remain at home until this money is given to us,” he added.

Dr Grace Lubaale, the chairperson of Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda, said government has been deceptive in handling the issues of public university salary enhancements.

Dr Lubaale tasked the university accounting officers to confirm receipt of the money before the staff take a decision to call off the strike.

“What we now want is that the accounting officers should acknowledge that they have received the money and inform us.

Releasing money is one thing and receiving it is another. So we want to be sure that these funds have actually reached the university accounts,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Service, however, insisted the Shs29b released by government covers both the salary enhancement and the arrears for support staff.

“I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated December 17, 2018 in response to mine dated December 3, 2018 confirming Shs29.5b as the agreed upon figure for enhancement for public universities.

Your letter also acknowledges the outstanding arrears of Shs4.3b to non-teaching staff of the public universities in M10-M22, which my ministry had earlier on brought to your attention,” Ms Sharifah Buzeki, on behalf of the Public Service Permanent Secretary, wrote to the Permanent Secretary of ministry of Finance on January 7, 2019.

“The ministry has accordingly revised the allocations to the public universities for enhancement of all staff taking into account the Shs29.5b and the Shs4.3b outstanding arrears for the staff salary arrears for scale M10-M22,” the letter adds.

Dr Deus Kamunyu, the chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association, said while the release of Shs29.5 is a good gesture, he insisted the arrears must be considered.

“All we want is that government must release both the money for enhancement and the arrears.

Once that is done, we have no problem with the ministries and we shall honour our part to teach,” he said.

Minimal impact so far
Prof Eli Katunguka, the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University, said the strike has not affected much of the activities.

“Currently, the strike has not affected us much because students have just started reporting and are still very few.

However, if the strike goes up to next week, it may greatly affect us and we are praying that a solution is got before next week,” Prof Katunguka said.

He also said management was talking to the striking staff to return to work.

Makerere University and Makerere University Business School are yet to open for the second semester.

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the Makerere Vice Chancellor, said his staff had not declared a strike yet.

“I hope by the time the university opens, all the concerns would have been addressed and that they will not lay down their tools,” Prof Nawangwe said in a telephone interview.

By Daily Monitor 

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