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UNATU warns of industrial action as govt raises salaries for science teachers

KAMPALA– Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) wants the government to abandon the proposed inequitable salary enhancements in public service and opt for an inclusive one or else all the teachers will soon stop teaching, UNATU having suspended the last sit-down strike in 2019.

UNATU’s warning comes after the government recently agreed to enhance the salaries of science teachers following their industrial action at the beginning of the second term.

Science teachers through their umbrella body, Uganda Professional Science Teacher’s Union [UPSTU], accused the government of sidelining them while enhancing the salaries of other scientists.

They complained that the government went ahead to reallocate the money that had been earmarked in the budget framework to enhance their pay.

Due to pressure, the cabinet chaired by President Museveni Yoweri Museveni agreed to enhance the salaries of science teachers alongside other scientists in civil service.

In addition to accepting the salary enhancement for scientists, the Minister for ICT and National Guidance Dr. Chris Baryomunsi was quoted by the online publications as saying the cabinet also decided that the starting pay for all graduate science teachers in the coming financial year should be Shs 4 million while their colleagues in the medical field at the same level will bag Shs 5mln.

This means the pay for graduate science teachers will be fixed at Shs 4mln and grade V teachers Shs 3mln up from Shs 1.1mln and Shs 796,000 respectively.

The wage allocation that had been made by the Ministry of Public Service in February this year before the new changes were made showed that a graduate science teacher was poised to get Shs 2.4mln.

According to Baryomunsi, putting science teachers’ pay at Shs 4mln and realigning the pay of other scientists in accordance with their grades and specialties will require Shs 735bln.

The minister said that Museveni has already instructed the Ministry of Finance to avail of the funds before the budget for the financial year 2022/2023 is read, parliament having passed it at Shs48 trillion.

Sources in the Ministry of Finance claim Shs 400bln in the budget is provided to enhance salaries for all scientists, including science teachers and medical workers. Of the Shs 400bln, Shs 111bln is earmarked to enhance salaries for science teachers and Shs 27bln for scientists in tertiary institutions.

Following government acceptance to enhance their salaries science teachers through their umbrella, UPSTU called off the strike and resumed work on May 16, 2022.

However, the move by the government to increase salaries for science teachers, leaving out arts teachers has not gone well with UNATU, a labour negotiating umbrella of all teachers in Uganda.

In a letter dated May 23, 2022, and addressed to the Minister of Public Service Wilson Muruli Mukasa, UNATU General Secretary Filbert Baguma Bate, said that the idea of preferring science teachers leaving out arts teachers is wrong and a sign of discrimination among the teachers and other government workers who are not scientists.

Reference is made to our communication to you to even reference UNATU/MPS/04/01 dated 3rd of April, 2018. In our letter we clearly highlighted to you the dangers of segregative salary enhancements in the Public Service. Four years down the road due to the laxity with which you handled the matter, the conflict has deepened and has spread beyond the education sector. As you are already aware different sections of workers have threatened or are already on industrial action over the issue of salary enhancement thus severely affecting service delivery in Public Service,” the letter reads in part.

Baguma explained that in the prevailing economic situation where prices of commodities are skyrocketing, almost on daily basis, all workers deserve salary increments.

He argued that doctors, nurses, other scientists, teachers, security forces, among other categories of government workers all work and live in the same environment and that promising salary enhancement to one category of workers without grand enhancement plan for others is not only unfair but unjust and unconstitutional.

It should also be noted that on 22nd June 2018, UNATU and other labour unions agreed on a Collective Bargain Agreement [CBA] with the government that clearly highlighted the plan for salary enhancement across all categories of public servants in the financial years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020.

According to the agreement, salary increment negotiations for financial years 2020/2021,2021/2022, and 2022/2023 would go as agreed with the aim of removing disparities in the scales.

However, Baguma revealed that while some categories of civil servants in the assigned agreement, particularly those in Phase I have received the increment in full, teachers who were supposed to benefit in Phase II have received only 25 percent of the expected increment.

“Out of Shs 542bln, for the financial year 2019/20, government only paid Shs 135bln to teachers. It was therefore expected that the unpaid Shs 389bln would be paid in financial year 2020/2021 which was not done,” stated Baguma.

According to Baguma, despite several reminders, the Ministry of Public Service not only deviated from the agreed salary enhancement plan but went ahead to present proposals to Parliament with ‘segregative’ salary enhancements.

He said that with the government fully aware of the CBA but has chosen to deliberately divert from the agreed commitments and instead focus on dividing the workers through segregative salary enhancements, the teachers are therefore left with no option other than resuming the 2019 industrial action that was suspended pending the full implementation of the CBA.

On his part, Martin Okiria Obore the chairperson of the Association of Secondary Headteachers of Uganda (ASSHU) said that if the government insists on the payment of a basic salary of Shs 4 million for science teachers without giving any increment to the other teachers, it will put the resumption of teaching after close to three years of closure due to Covid-19 restrictions in jeopardy.

According to him, teachers teaching humanities and arts are not happy with the selective increment of salary being fronted by the government.

“Without the grand plan for salary enhancement across all education subsectors, the resumption of the teaching-learning process according to the set school calendar could be in jeopardy. This plan should also put into consideration the provision of the public service standing orders concerning supervision and appraisal to clear discrepancies between the supervisors and the junior staff,” he said.

Obore said that as a headteacher he is not against the proposed increment, but wants all graduate teachers to benefit from the increment.

“The proposed increment should motivate as opposed to demotivating and dividing the teaching fraternity. I’m not opposed to the proposed salary increment the teachers are set to benefit, the union welcomes the proposal of Shs 4 million as the starting salary for all graduate teachers…based on the principle of equity and fairness, all those with the same qualifications should ideally earn within the same salary scale. This is clearly stated in the National Teachers Policy as approved by Cabinet,” said Okiria.

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