The Ministry of Public Service has invited the leadership of teachers under the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) who are on strike for talks aiming at resolving the standoff.
The teachers earlier this month declared a nationwide strike at all levels demanding equality and harmonization of the salary enhancement among teachers of different subjects, support staff, and school administrators.
The strike follows the government’s decision to increase the salaries of science teachers up to 4 million shillings and disregard the art teachers.
Government would later direct the striking arts teachers to return to class by Thursday June 30 or get sacked.
In a June 22 letter, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Service, Catherine Bitarakwate, ordered the striking teachers back to class by Friday, June 24, or risk being sacked for absconding from duty and engaging in an “illegal” industrial action.
“Whereas teachers, like all other employees of government, have rights and freedoms to be enjoyed under the Constitution and other relevant laws, including the right to withdraw labour, the current industrial action by the members of Unatu is illegal …,” Bitarakwate wrote.
Now, in a turn of events, Bitarakwate, on behalf of the Ministry of Public Service, has written to UNATU Secretary General, inviting him and four other Union Executive Members for a meeting on Friday.
“This is therefore to invite you and four of your Union Executive Members for a meeting with the Ministry of Public Service on Friday 1st July, 2022 at 2:00pm in the Ministry Boardroom. The meeting will focus on issues raised for the industrial action,” read Bitarakwate’s letter dated June 27th and received by UNATU on June 28.
By Tuesday morning, UNATU had not known of this meeting, according to Filbert Baguma, the Union’s General Security.
“I haven’t received the invitation. I have heard about it this morning on a TV show from the PS of Ministry of Public Service but officially, I have not seen the invitation,” Baguma told Baba Television on Tuesday morning. It was after their revelation that the letter was delivered to UNATU.
Baguma wondered why the Ministry of Public Service, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education had to date not engaged UNATU leadership as instructed by the President when they met him last week.
Meanwhile, Baguma revealed on Baba Television that no amount of threat will invigorate teachers to backtrack from their industrial action.
“I want to encourage the teachers to withstand the intimidations and threats. We are in a democratic country and therefore democracy prevails. This is the government of the people,” Baguma said.
“Threats of deleting you from public service when you are legally fighting and demanding for your rights do not hold water and I want to caution those who are intimidating teachers that they are only making the bad situation worse, forcing a teacher to class does not tantamount to teaching”
“Therefore, teachers should get there issues resolved, they agree and go back to back to class and they are even read to compensate for the time lost,” he added.
When reminded about the June 30 deadline for government to crack a whip on striking teachers, Baguma said: “That deadline is not legally backed.”
He said teachers will only return to work when government convincingly fixed the issues they have raised.
“We have not bowed and we are not going to bow to pressure. Pressure doesn’t solve what we have tabled. We will go back to class provided we get our issues resolved,” Baguma said.
This is not the first time that teachers under UNATU have laid down their tools over salary enhancements.
In 2011, they organized a sit-down strike requesting a 100 percent salary increment. Other requests included an increase in the science allowance, an increase in capitation awards, and the delivery of the data on time.
The then Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi pledged a progressive increase over three financial years. That year, the government committed to meet half of the requests but failed to lead to additional industrial action.
Later, the government pledged a three-phased salary rise for the next three fiscal years. 15 percent, 20 percent, and 15 percent would be the three installments of the increase.
The first phase was paid in the 2012/13 Financial Year and science teachers in post-primary education and training institutions received a 30 percent increase.
However, because the money was not included in the 2013/14 budget year, the government defaulted on the 20%, which led to a strike in August 2013, with the government claiming there was no money.
UNATU which maintains 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 head teachers should receive 10 Million Shillings, and primary school head teachers 4.5 million. The union is also pushing the government to pay 4.8 million Shillings to graduate science teachers and 4.5 million shillings to those teaching arts and humanities.
They are also advocating for a Shillings 1.35 million minimum wage for primary school teachers.