Hours after Public Service Ministry Permanent Secretary Catherine Bitarakwate Musingwiire announced that President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s government will fire arts and primary school teachers, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu) leaders have sworn that they will not be intimidated.
On June 22, PS Bitarakwate issued a lengthy statement declaring the arts secondary and primary school teachers’ strike illegal and ordering teachers to return to class or be fired and replaced with those willing to work for peanuts.
The teachers were protesting the proposed segregative salary enhancement after government announced that it will increase science teachers’ salaries starting July 01, with each graduate science teacher earning Shs4m and a diploma holder Shs3m monthly.
Here’s PS Bitarakwate’s letter to Unatu General Secretary Filbert Bates Baguma:
Reference is made to your letter Ref: UNATU/MPS/05/022 dated 25th May 2022 and the Press Release of 11 June 2022 calling for industrial action by all the members of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) with effect from 15th June 2022. The grounds of the industrial action cited in the Press Release include discriminatory salary enhancement and failure by Government to honour the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2018.
The Government wishes to reiterate its commitment towards salary enhancement for all Public Officers. This is evidenced by the phased salary enhancement that has so far been achieved, whose implementation will continue within the available resources. For example, in the last two years we have had to put aside other priorities to deal with the survival against Covid19. The priority of Government was addressing Covid19 and not enhancement of salaries.
The current enhancement for the science teachers was informed by the available resources, the number of teachers involved and the impact that can be made by the scientists to the development of this country. We have no doubt that you agree that we need an educated work force in all aspects of life but more in the sciences. This in our view will attract and retain the crucial skill that is required by the country at this material time.
Whereas teachers, like all other employees of Government have rights and freedoms enjoyed under the Constitution and relevant laws, including the right to withdraw labour, the current Industrial Action by the members of UN ATU is illegal and in breach of the principles and spirit of the law and particularly Sections 7(2)(a) and (b) and 8(1) and (3) and the Public Service Negotiating, Consultative and Disputes Settlement Machinery Act, 2008 and the Recognition Agreement signed under this Act because neither has UNATU given a notice to strike nor had the Dispute Settlement Machinery been exhausted.
The claim that the strike had been ongoing since 2019 and hence there was no need for a new notice is both fallacious and not legally tenable.
Secondly, we have noted with concern that you and your membership have decided to close the schools. We wish to advise you that no teacher, whether on strike or not, has the legal right or justification to close a public school without the concurrence of the Government of Uganda.
While the Government is committed to working with all parties towards achieving better salaries for all Public Servants, your demands for a salary enhancement cannot be addressed in the Financial Year 2022-23.
With that in mind the purpose of this letter is to communicate as follows:
All Government employed teachers are advised to resume duty at their respective work stations by 24 June 2022 without fail.
Any Government employed Teachers who does not comply to this call will be regarded as having abandoned duty and resigned from the Public Service in accordance with Section A-n (17) of the Uganda Public Service Standing Orders, 2021.
The Teachers who are not willing to work under the prevailing terms and conditions are free to withdraw their labour as provided for under Public Service Standing Orders.
Those who do not agree to any of the above are advised to seek legal redress in Courts of law,
Government has not issued any directive for closure of any school and therefore any contrary instructions to learners are regarded as illegal. All schools are expected to proceed with the Ministry of Education and Sports school calendar for the 2nd Term 2022.
By copy of this letter, the Chief Administrative Officers and Town Clerks are called upon to take stock of the Teachers present and submit absent Teachers by the 30th June 2022 for eventual removal from the payroll.
But Unatu, through its secretary general Baguma, has declined to call off the strike, making it clear that: “We are still on industrial action as long as government has not addressed our demands.”
Baguma also made it clear that Unatu was going to reply PS Bitarakwate’s threatening letter so as to “put her [PS Bitarakwate] back on line to understand that we have all the documentation to the effect of this industrial action.”
“I wouldn’t expect her [Bitarakwate] who was part of the meetings developing the collective bargaining agreement, as someone who appended her signature on the collective bargaining agreement, to be the person to start intimidating the teachers that they have abandoned duty,” Baguma further told local media.
In his budget speech read on Tuesday, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija announced that the salaries of science teachers, scientists and health workers will be increased in a ‘very big’ way starting July 2022. (Read Story Here).
MORE ON TEACHERS’ SALARY INCREMENT
MORE ON SALARY INCREMENT CIRCUS
In order to improve service delivery and end the challenge of strikes over low pay, President Museveni’s government has proposed huge salary increments for teachers, doctors and other employees starting July 2022. (Read Story Here)
The proposed increments have left many people wondering if government will really fulfill this pledge and increase salaries by very high amounts.
For example, opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye has argued that the promise of salary increment is just ‘another lie.’ (Read Story Here).
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija recently said the money for increasing teachers’, doctors’ and other civil servants’ salaries was available. (Read Story Here).
In August 2021, cabinet approved salary increment for teachers, doctors and other health workers. (Read Story Here).
See the salary structure that had been proposed for the current financial year here.
Meanwhile, an NRM MP has angered teachers after telling them they are too poor to go on strike. (Read Story Here).