KAMPALA – Academic staff in public universities have announced a strike, accusing unequal distribution of the Shs50 billion provided by the government to enhance their salaries.
In April, the Ministry of Education released a salary distribution schedule indicating a significant increment in the salaries for Vice-Chancellors, Professors and Associate Professors compared to Senior lecturers, lecturers and assistant lecturers.
According to the scale, Vice-Chancellors will earn a monthly gross of 20 million Shillings from the current 12.2 million Shillings while their deputies will earn 17.5 million Shillings. Professors will receive 15.6 million Shillings from the current 9.9 million Shillings while Associate Professors will receive 14.8 million Shillings.
Senior lecturers will receive a pay rise of 592,990 on top of their current pay of 8.4 million Shillings. But this leaves a gap of over five million Shillings between an Associate Professor and a Senior Lecturer.
Rev Dr Grace Lubaale, the Chairperson of the Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities, an umbrella that brings the staff together says they want the funds allocated evenly across the board. He says the demands were clearly stated but were ignored by the authorities.
“We have written four letters objecting to the unfair distribution of the 50 billion Shillings that neglect the pro-rata principle. However, they have ignored us. We have therefore withdrawn labour effective June 4 until the government resolves the matter,” Rev Dr Lubaale says.
The academic staff association leaders from all nine public universities questioned the rationale of the new arrangement considering that the matter was never agreed upon. However, the Public Service Ministry Permanent Secretary Catherine Bitarakwate recently wrote to the association explaining that the enhancement is in accordance with the phased approach as agreed upon in their negotiations with government.
“This strategy is not new as it has been applied in the judiciary, the central appointing commission and permit secretaries and heads of departments. This approach allows for significant enhancement as opposed to piecemeal enhancement which has been used over the years without impact,” Bitarekwate explained.
However, in a May 26 letter signed by the association leaders of several public universities, the academicians insist that they want the distribution to be equitable and fair. Equally, non-teaching staff who were not allocated any funds are considering laying down their tools.
The Education Minister Janet Museveni has promised to meet them to resolve the matter. Jackson Betihamah, the Chairperson of Public Universities non teaching staff Executive’s Forum notes that the distribution of the allocated fund discriminated non-teaching staff something that will cause unrest.
“It is true that the minister has promised to meet our leadership. We are still looking to see the outcomes of the meeting. But if they don’t avail for us some money. We will be left without an option,” says Betihamah. Staff in all public universities have been enjoying a phased salary enhancement from 2017.
The staff strike is likely to affect the planning reopening of universities following their closure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.