KAMPALA – What was expected to be a candid discussion between striking university staff and President Museveni on the status of their salary enhancement on Tuesday turned into an admonishment by the Head of State who accused the staff of destabilizing the country through endless strikes, PML Daily has learnt.
Representatives of teaching and non-teaching staff in public universities across the country had been summoned by Mr Museveni to State House Entebbe on Tuesday in what was hoped to be part of the government efforts to end the ongoing strike which they started early this month.
The university staff are demanding Shs150 billion promised by the President in 2015 as part of the gradual increment of their salaries, which should see a professor earn Shs15m per month.
However, the staff representatives were caught unawares when the President attacked them for leading unendless strikes.
Sources that attended the meeting told PML Daily that a visibly angry Museveni wondered why they keep striking before directing them to return to work.
“I am advising you to stop striking. Tell your friends to go back to work and stop striking. I do not want people who are selfish and always blackmailing the government,” the President is quoted as saying.
Mr Museveni is said to have expressed shock that a professor had not reached the Shs15b as he had promised in 2015 but promised to follow up the issue himself.
“I was not aware that this matter was still pending but I will handle it myself expeditiously,” he is quoted as saying.
The source added that the President re-emphasised how the government is committed to increasing the salaries of all the public servants in phases.
Museveni said that this must start with the most needed and priority servants like the pilots, engineers and doctors, asserting that the increment should be done not forgetting other key sectors particularly security, roads and infrastructure among others.
Mr Museveni added that public servants together with their families in the country constitute 5 per cent of the population but they are consuming 11 percent of all revenue.
The meeting was attended by Workers MPs, representatives of the staff both the teaching and non-teaching staff from all universities, representatives of the traders unions, Vice Chancellors and council chairpersons from all public universities, Uganda local government workers union representatives, Uganda nurses and midwives unions, Uganda medical workers.
Sources added that all government officials, including Education minister Janet Museveni, denied knowledge of the strike, leaving the university staff representatives isolated and powerless before the Head of State.
Dr Grace Lubaale, the chairman of the Forum for Academic staff of Public Universities in Uganda (FASPU), after the meeting started circulating the directive on different staff associations’ platforms to resume work immediately.
“We met President Museveni regarding Shs15m of a professor pro rata and he promised to handle our issue himself expeditiously so with that promise,please report back to work with immediate effect,” Dr Lubaale’s message reads in part.
Mr Jackson Betihamah, the chairperson of the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (Puntsef), said their meeting with the President didn’t produce tangible results.
“I think we attended a meeting, which wasn’t ours. We had all these other staff associations for teachers and workers across. They were basically thanking the President for enhancing their salaries for this financial year,” Mr Betihamah said.
“The President informed us that he wasn’t aware that a professor had not reached Shs15million as promised. It was not a good meeting generally. We came from there without any tangible promise. Not even a road map and we feel we were not given a fair hearing,” he added.