The Uganda National Teachers' Union (UNATU) has announced an indefinite strike effective tomorrow Wednesday in their quest for equality and harmonization of the salary enhancement among teachers of different subjects, support staff, and school administrators across all levels of education.
The strike, which is scheduled to start a day after the budget speech, is premised on the fact that the government has decided to increase the pay for science teachers nearly by 3 folds in disregard for their colleagues in arts and humanities.
According to information obtained by this reporter, in the budget estimates that will be read later today, graduate science and grade V teachers are expected to receive Shs 4 million and Shs 3 million up from Shs 1.1 million and Shs 796,000 respectively.
Filbert Baguma, the UNATU general secretary, says that it is unfair that the government is playing gimmicks with teachers and trying to create confusion among them by prioritizing a certain section. Baguma notes that on May 23 this year, UNATU sent a notice to government indicating their intention to resume their industrial action should the government insist on implementing discriminatory salary enhancements for teachers as opposed to honouring the commitments made in their collective bargaining agreement signed back in 2018.
"Regrettably, to date, no positive response has been received from government. It is important to note that our industrial action that started in 2019 over the same issue, was only suspended pending the full implementation of the collective bargaining agreement," the general secretary noted.
He wondered whether the commitments made by the government were mere ‘boardroom gimmicks’ meant to silence teachers and foil any plans for industrial action at the moment.
Baguma explains that since the government has decided to play the fool, union leaders across the country have unanimously ratified the resolution to enter into an industrial action if there is no satisfactory feedback on issues pertaining to teachers’ salary increment across the board for the financial year 2022/2023.
"Our industrial action effective 15th June 2022 will continue as planned until government agrees to implement the CBA without discrimination. Some categories of civil servants are already earning salaries from the same CBA. Why does the practice change when it comes to teachers?" Baguma wondered.
The teachers' union, which maintains that it is still open to talks with the government, has also drafted a pay increase plan for all teachers and other employees.
According to their demands, secondary school headteachers should receive Shs 10 million, and primary school headteachers Shs 4.5 million. UNATU is also pushing the government to pay Shs 4.8 million to graduate science teachers and Shs 4.5 million to those teaching arts and humanities. They are also advocating for a Shs 1.35 million minimum wage for primary school teachers.
UNATU's call for industrial action comes after teachers under Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union (UPSTU) suspended their strike indefinitely which was declared at the beginning of the second term. Leaders in this breakaway union had temporarily suspended the strike when the government promised to address their concerns.
Aron Mugaiga, UPSTU general secretary said that they have confirmed the fact that the government has included their pay raise, as promised in the FY 2022/23 budget. Over the last two years, teachers and other experts have been poking holes in governments' (or President Museveni's) decision to prioritize science teachers with huge pay raises thus calling for harmonization of salaries across the board.
The president has maintained his stand on the matter. On many occasions, Museveni has repeatedly noted that although there is a claim of equity, the reality is that scientists are more important to the nation and therefore need special treatment.
"We shall support our arts people, but let's start with the scientists because we don't have enough money to handle both. So rather than saying, we all get stagnant, no. That is not correct. Banyankole has a saying that when you're drinking alcohol you say we're all equal - we're all men here when you're drunk, but when the beer goes away, you discover who is better than the other one. So please, this onsinza ki (you're no better than) must stop. Soroti Flying School was about to collapse because of this onsinza ki, we're all government workers. In the end, we shall pay all of them well but if we can't pay all of them well. Rather than saying we lose everybody, I don't think that is the correct way. It is suicidal," Museveni noted in his Labour Day speech.