The Member of Parliament for Workers, Dr. Sam Lyomoki and The National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) chairman general, Wilson Usher Owere have differed on the interpretation of laws that medical workers based on to declare their ongoing strike.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health on Thursday night in an impromptu press conference declared that Uganda Medical Association (UMA) which is leading the doctors’ strike as an illegal organisation with no mandate to negotiate for welfare of medical workers.
She ordered all medical workers to resume work with immediate effect.
But medical workers say they will continue laying down tools whether their association is legally registered or not.
The point of contention is that Uganda Medical Association is not a registered trade union and cannot agitate for improved workers’ remunerations.
“The Uganda Medical Association is not a registered trade union and cannot enjoy the rights immunities and privileges provided under the labour unions act,” said Dr Aceng.
Lyomoki who doubles as the secretary general of Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) said doctors have a right to strike whether they are registered as a trade union or not.
He said the Uganda Medical Association is a legitimate organisation like Uganda Law Society and that there is a bill in parliament if passed will turn UMA into an association established by an act of parliament.
Lyomoki said workers are protected by the Constitution to establish an association of their choice.
Lyomoki argued that UMA is an association that has been operating for a long time and is “older than the National Resistance Movement government.”
But Owere said UMA was formed for other roles such as “buying land, doing development and so on” hence can’t agitate for workers improved remunerations.
He said UMA has no legal mandate to “talk about medical workers welfare.”
Owere said that it’s only Uganda Medical Workers Union (UMWU), a registered trade union that can negotiate for medical workers remunerations.
The Labour Unions Act, 2006 defines a labour union as any organisation of employees created by employees for the purpose of representing the rights and interests of employees and includes a registered labour union.
The Public Service (Negotiating, Consultative and Disputes Settlement Machinery Act defines a trade union as any organisation of employees created by employees for purposes of representing the rights and interests of employees.
Owere said government has been negotiating with many associations that have no mandate to negotiate for workers’ rights.
“The association of judicial officers has approached us; they want to join the union. Government has been using divide and rule tactics. Now that government has been hit hard, it has returned to understand the law,” he said.
Owere said Lyomoki has “got a lot of problems” because he was sacked by Uganda Medical Workers Union.