The teaching and the non-teaching staff from the nine public universities in Uganda have declared an indefinite, comprehensive nationwide strike effective January 2019.
The threat comes after government failed to clear the outstanding salary enhancements balance of Shs 29.5 billion in the financial year 2017/18. The strike is to compel government to address its 2015 promise to enhance public universities staff salaries.
During a joint strategic meeting among members of the Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda (Faspu) and Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (Puntsef) held at Makerere University on Monday, the staff resolved to withdraw their labour effective January 2019 if they are not paid their enhancements.
The meeting comprised of staff from universities of Makerere, Gulu, Lira, Muni, Kabale, Soroti, Busitema and Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).
The staff members contend that in April 2017, David Bahati, the state minister of Finance committed to the payment of Shs 58 billion in FY 2017/2018 in partial fulfilment of the presidential promise Shs 15 million salary for a university professor by 2019/2020.
During the budgetary process for the FY 2018/2019 government budgeted for only Shs 29.5 billion which has not been paid despite the promise and confirmation of cabinet approval and commitment by government according to Public Service minister Muruli Mukasa's letter to staff on August 3.
On September 24, Keith Muhakanizi, the secretary to the Treasury reaffirmed government's position to clear this outstanding salary enhancement balance by January 2019. Dr Grace Lubaale, the FASPU chairperson while communicating the outcome of the meeting and announcing the commencement of the strike, re-echoed the insincerity of government in meeting their demands.
According to Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) withdrawing their labour is the last resort especially after engaging fruitlessly with government and various stakeholders.
Kamunyu observes that when they met with the First Lady and Education minister Janet Kataaha Museveni, a promise was made but technical people in the Finance ministry failed to fulfil this promise.
According to the promise, a professor was supposed to have reached Shs 15 million monthly salary by 2019/2020. This was however to be achieved in a phased manner. As of today, one financial year to the agreed deadline, a professor in public university earns between Shs 8-9 million.
In order for government to meet its promised target of Shs 15 million for a professor by 2019/20, government requires approximately Shs 154 billion to be provided in the next financial year.