Makerere University academic staff have threatened to lay down their tools ahead of the new semester, in protest of the government’s failure to honor a presidential pledge to increase their salaries.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday last week barely days after the University opened for the new academic year, the acting Chairperson of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association(MUASA) Prof. Edward Nector Mwavu said that his colleagues would stay home until the government addresses their concerns.
The move follows a similar call by the Forum for Academic Staff for Public Universities (FASPU) and the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF). In a joint letter dated August 2nd, the professional associations called upon their members to undertake industrial action. “This is further to reaffirm that you stay at home until our concerns are addressed by government,” the letter reads in part.
The staff accuse the government of reneging on a presidential commitment to progressively increase the salaries of academic staff across all public universities over a 5- year period, the end of which a Professor would earn Shs.15million.
The agreement was reached between President Museveni and the academic staff from all public universities following a similar industrial strike in 2014, before the lecturers agreed to resume teaching.
Now, Mwavu says that the government must rededicate itself towards evaluating the performance of the salary enhancement Scheme. Currently, a non-Science professor earns a gross salary of Shs.8.5 million, Shs.6.5 million shy of the targeted Shs.15million, yet the 5year implementation period of the salary enhancement scheme ended in July this year.
In the just began financial year, the government set aside Shs.15 billion towards salary raise for both teaching and Non-teaching staff in public Universities, but Prof. Mwavu insists that’s “peanuts,” weighed against staff expectations. “Shs.15 billion is a lot of money in figures, but when you try to distribute it across all the Public Universities, it means that a person who was supposed to move from Shs.8.5 million to Shs.15 million might only move to Shs.8.8 million,” he told theCooperator.
He argued that at this rate (Shs.15billion each financial year), it would take the government up to ten years to achieve the commitment made by the president. That, coupled with inflation, and the fact that more hitherto unplanned staff are coming into the payroll means that there is no significant benefit to staff, says Mwavu.
“Last financial year, we received a total of Shs.58 billion for all Public Universities but the staff members who got the highest enhancement received about Shs. 600,000 only. What about Shs.15 billion spread across all public Universities! What will each staff get?” Prof. Mwavu asked.
The Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe has however called upon the staff to resume work with the new semester, as negotiations continue with the government. The semester resumed on August 3rd with the reporting of First-year students, while the continuing students report today.
Last semester, the university came to a standstill for nearly a month as lecturers demanded unpaid arrears from the government worth over Shs. 29 billion. Prof. Mwavu called upon the government to avoid the reoccurrence of a similar scenario this time, arguing that they(Staff) had raised the alarm as early as possible to allow the government to consider their plea in time.