Makerere staff give April 8 industrial action ultimatum

Education
Makerere staff give April 8 industrial action ultimatum
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The Joint Staff Associations says the Shs12-plus must be included in the budget for 2024/25 "so as to stop the injustice of underpayment that many members of staff have suffered for very many years and continue to suffer".

MAKERERE | All staff at Makerere will withdraw their labour on Monday April 8 unless the university finds Shs12,636,589,200 to harmonise their salaries before then.

The Joint Staff Associations says the Shs12-plus must be included in the budget for 2024/25 "so as to stop the injustice of underpayment that many members of staff have suffered for very many years and continue to suffer".

The university is expected to pass its budget next month.

In a March 15 letter to Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe, the joint staff said its executive had barely managed to convince the staff to extend the start of industrial action to  April 8 to allow negotiations to bear fruit.

Prof Nawangwe told the Nile Post in a brief response on Sunday that "we are still handling with them".

Asked if there is a chance that this time round the issue will be settled before the industrial action as is often the case, he said "hopefully".

However, Dr Lorna Magara, the chairperson of the University Council, was at pains to reconcile with the industrial threat.

Dr Magara said Makerere is a public university fully funded by government using taxpayers money, meaning the grievances being raised are for the government to resolve.

"Don’t you ever get to wonder why management or the Council for that matter is held at ransom for a matter only Parliament can resolve?" she said.

"The leaders of these staff associations have had opportunity to meet with both government and parliament. What response did they get?"

But Associate Professor Jude Ssempebwa, the MUASA general secretary, said they have been receiving lip-service from the university management over the matter.

"The truth is that there is no written commitment that the money for harmonisation of the salaries has been included or will be included in the forthcoming budget," he said.

Stalemate

The Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), its administrative equivalent MASA, and National Union of Education Institutions (NUEI) have since last year been engaging management over the pay grievance.

On January 12, the university management requested the joint staff to give them a final chance to pursue the matter of salary harmonisation with relevant government ministries.

At an emergency general assembly on January 15, the joint staff reviewed progress toward implementation of the harmonisation of salaries as per the resolution of their November 30 general assembly.

At the time, the joint staff warned the management that if the resolution was not fully implemented, all staff (academic, administrative, and support) would withdraw their labour effective Monday April 8.

"The above resolutions were communicated to the Chairperson of the University Council and copied to you on January 17," the industrial threat letter reads in part.

They said negotiations that have taken place for many years have failed to bear any fruit.

"Unfortunately, during a meeting of the joint staff executive and the university management held on March 13, it was noted that management has not secured any written commitment that the said Shs12.6 will be included in the Budget for 2024/2025," they said.

The letter was signed by MUASA chairperson Robert Kakuru, his MASA counterpart Bennet Magara, and NUEI acting chairperson Isaac Okello, as well as their respective general secretaries Dr Ssempebwa, Irene Namatende and Justine Namuddu.

The letter was copied to several government departments, including key ministries of finance and economic planning, public service, and that of education, as well as parliamentary committees on education.

However, the Speaker of Parliament, whose chamber has been a source of intriguing financial dealings, will have hear of the development for the  committee and union MPs.

The Speaker's chambers is at the centre of revelations of spending billions of shillings in corporate social responsibility and allowances, monies that would make the Makerere staff demand look like a spoonful of sugar in Anita Among's teacup.

Dr Magara probably had this seeming bottomlessness of Parliament's cash reserve in mind when she invoked the Legislature's will to settle the issue.

She said the industrial action was not necessary at this pooint.

"So who does the industrial action hurt?" she asked. "Definitely it’s the students and their parents who paid their hard earned fees!

Is this the best way to have concerns addressed?"

However, Dr Ssempebwa is unmoved.

"That being the case, the resolution of the Joint Staff Associations for all staff to withdraw their labour on April 8 stands as communicated," he said.

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