The Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) is awaiting a government response to demands for salary enhancement fronted last week. The nurses are demanding a 400 percent salary raise and allowances totalling to 9 million Shillings for each of them.
The union, an independent entity working to safeguard the professional, social and organizational interests of nurses and midwives, fronted the demand in a November 27, letter to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Service. The letter is copied to the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.
According to the letter, the 400 percent increment will raise the salary of the lowest paid nurse to Shs2.5 the Shs9 million will cover the cost of housing, risk, medical, responsibility, transport, transfer, leave, funeral and overtime allowances for each member.
The Union’s General Secretary Paul Henry Bukenya said that government promised to give its position by end of today. He adds that if they don’t get a response, nurses will lay down their tools on Tuesday.
Though the labour laws require nurses who are in a union to give the government a 90-day strike notice, Bukenya says government broke the law when it negotiated with doctors who gave a 30-day strike notice.
Medical doctors under their umbrella Uganda Medical Association were on strike last month. The strike which lasted three weeks was called off after the government promised to pay a starting monthly salary of up to five million Shillings to doctors effective next financial year.
“At the time when UMA was on strike, the government asked us not to go on strike and we accepted… At the end of the strike, the government announced salary increment for doctors but nothing for nurses. We were agitated. This was dishonesty on side of government,” Bukenya says.
He further says; “We know 90 days are there, but a labour dispute can come up at any time when someone is psychologically tortured because of satisfying a section of workers. This was an undue consideration. We tried to reach the ministry of health and they kept quiet.”
Bukenya argues that nurses make up the largest section of the health care force in Uganda with over 21,000 nurses employed in government facilities in comparison to the 1200 doctors.
The National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) Chairman General Usher Wilson Owere says the government should face the music for breaking labour laws. By negotiation with Uganda Medical Association, he says, the government was not following the law.