The First Lady and minister for Education, Janet Kataaha Museveni, backed by four other ministers yesterday failed to convince non-teaching staff of public universities to call off the one-week strike that has paralysed operations
The First Lady and minister for Education, Janet Kataaha Museveni, backed by four other ministers yesterday failed to convince non-teaching staff of public universities to call off the one-week strike that has paralysed operations.
The ministers meeting representatives of non-teaching staff from the public universities disagreed on when the promised salary increment would be implemented and payment of salary arrears accruing from July 2015.
This means the five public universities of Makerere, Busitema, Kyambogo, Gulu and Makerere University Business School (MUBS) will remain closed and that the continuing and new students will not report for the first semester of the academic year.
“We are appealing to government to reconsider their position quickly. The status quo of the industrial action remains. We must keep our tools down. What we want is the consensus note implemented. Failure to do that, we shall keep our tools down,” Mr Jackson Betihamah, the Public Universities’ Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF) chairman, said after the meeting.
PUNTSEF is protesting government’s reneging on its promise to enhance their pay. PUNTSEF says government’s decision to increase pay of only the academic teaching staff was discriminatory.
At yesterday’s meeting held at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala, Ms Museveni made a passionate plea to the university staff in vain.
“Those are your children and you must take care of them. If they are not there, you will not get jobs,” Ms Museveni said.
“Let us look at these issues realistically…In two months, your increment will come and let us allow technocrats to study the consensus note. You must allow things to work,” she added.
Ministers Matia Kasaija (Finance), Muruli Mukasa (Public service), Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo (Higher Education) and Rosemary Senninde (Primary Education) were in attendance and equally implored the workers to call off the strike.
Ms Museveni, who was handed the docket of Education, Science, Technology and Sports in the new government in June, also said that she was new in the ministry and needed time to grasp the problems affecting public universities.
“You cannot die because you have not got a consensus note salary scale,” she said.
The consensus salary note signed between her ministry, before she took over the mantle, and the non-teaching was meant to ensure that salaries of non-teaching staff in public universities are at par with salaries of teaching staff.
Finance minister Matia Kasaija had agreed to enhance salaries of non-teaching staff as per the consensus note starting with the second budget quarter which commences in October, attracting ululations from the striking workers.
However, a technocrat from the Ministry of Finance interjected, telling the meeting that the consensus note on the salary scale had not been included in the 2016/2017 budget, dampening the mood again.
“We are going to act on your issues. I have a limited amount of money to be able to meet all the demands. There are roads, security and electricity to attend to,” Mr Kasaija said.
“If I tell you the salary of police officers, you will be surprised. I want to pay your enhancement. I want to assure you, they are coming,” Mr Kasaija said.
It was also revealed that the Ministry of Education used Shs13.5 billion of the Shs28.5 billion meant for salary enhancement of non-teaching staff to kick-start operations of the new universities.
These include Kabale University, Soroti University and Lira University. However, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, the meeting was told, used its internally generated revenue to enhance its non-teaching staff salaries and it is operating normally.