Uganda arts teachers head for another meeting with Museveni to end strike

Striking teachers meet Museveni, decline to call off strike
President Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni and the leaders of UNATU led by Baguma (2nd right) last year. UNATU continue opposing selected raising of salaries.

Entebbe, Uganda | URN | President Yoweri Museveni is expected to meet the leadership of the Uganda National Teacher’s Union-UNATU later today in an effort to end the nationwide arts teachers’ strike.

The meeting follows the arts teachers rejection of a “new deal” proposed by the Ministry of Public Service.

In two letters, the minister and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Service announced the new offer and pledged to raise teachers’ salaries in the medium term. The new offer was discussed during a meeting between the UNATU national executive council and branch leaders from around the country on Sunday 3, July 2022. The UNATU Secretary General Filbert Baguma, says that teachers rejected the government’s deal.

“Government should address teachers’ needs, was the conclusion. No more assurances. All they want to hear is that money would be set aside to increase their pay in this financial year if they return to the classroom,” Baguma told our reporter before confirming their meeting with President Museveni.

Baguma also stated that this time around, no amount of intimidation will compel teachers to return to classrooms.

“The strain is mounting. The UNATU leadership is under pressure from many officials to end the strike, but this strike is not for UNATU leaders. For teachers, that is. Anyone who wants it to cease must work to meet the needs of the union members,” he said.

UNATU will be meeting the president for the second time ever since they launched their strike. The first meeting on June 18 ended in a stalemate as the president failed to convince the striking teachers to resume work.

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Teachers laid down their tools in the quest for salary enhancement, with equity and harmonisation across the board. The strike, which is currently in the third week, has since stalled learning across the country as learners are idle while many have since given up on going to school altogether.

The current impasse resulted from the government’s decision to increase the pay for science teachers nearly by 300 per cent in disregard of their colleagues in arts and humanities. The increment saw the government increase the pay for graduate and grade V science teachers to Shillings 4 million and Shillings 3 million up from Shillings 1.1 million and Shillings 796,000 respectively.

To justify the move, government noted that it was just prioritizing science teachers basing on the available resources but there was a plan to increase payment for all civil servants in the long run. Teachers have however insisted that the government should either provide an additional budget to increase the salary of art teachers or, for the sake of justice, split the available wage bill of 95 billion Shillings among all teachers. The said wage bill was set aside to enhance salaries of science teachers only.

Meanwhile, as the government negotiates with teachers, a  lawyer has sued the government for selectively increasing the salary of teachers, saying this actions  violates the right of non-discrimination in the workplace of arts teachers as stated in  the Constitution.