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Teachers’ Strike: UNATU Tells Gov't To Stop Threats as Negotiations Start

Now, during the Wednesday meeting which was called by the vice president, Rtd Maj Jessica Alupo, UNATU leadership under the stewardship of their general secretary Filbert Bates Baguma told off government officials that before negotiation started, the government should stop threatening teachers.
29 Jun 2022 20:29
An empty class at Kyankowe Primary School in Mityana

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Teachers under their umbrella body Uganda National Teachers Union - UNATU have told the government to stop using ominous and threatening language as fresh negotiations between the two parties get underway. 

On June 15, teachers announced a national wide strike which has since stalled learning in most of the schools in their quest for pay equity and harmonization of salaries among teachers of various subjects, and school administrators at all levels of education.   

Government authorities began making threats, though, as teachers’ walkout reached the second week to get nearly 120,000 teachers back in the classroom. A letter from Catherine Bitarakwate Musingwiire, the permanent secretary of the ministry of public service, capped the threats. The letter issued a two-day deadline for the striking teachers to get back to work or face being dropped from the payroll for failing to report for duty.  

Bitarakwate additionally requested that inspections be conducted and a list of missing teachers be compiled by the Town Clerks and Chief Administrative Officers. Since then, the action has irritated teachers, driving them farther away from schools. 

Now, during the Wednesday meeting which was called by the vice president, Rtd Maj Jessica Alupo, UNATU leadership under the stewardship of their general secretary Filbert Bates Baguma told off government officials that before negotiation started, the government should stop threatening teachers.  

“We cannot have genuine talks when one part is threatening the other. All ministers and other officials have been adapting a threatening language saying that striking teachers will be deleted from the payroll. This was one of the key things we presented in the meeting,” Baguma told our reporter moments after the meeting.  

Baguma noted that the Vice President pledged that government and its officials will no longer issue threats to teachers. 

//Cue in; “We agreed that…

Cue out…there at all.”// 

The said meeting which lasted for over three hours was attended by workers’ Members of Parliament, the minister and officials from his ministry of public service, the Director-General of Internal Security Organisation - ISO, officials from the Ministry of Education, and representatives from the National Organization of Trade Unions – NOTU.   

Apart from stopping threats, it seems the Vice President had nothing to table when teachers presented their issues. Usher Wilson Owere, the NOTU Chairman General, told our reporter that initially, teachers had high hopes thinking that the government had something to offer as negotiations started, but mid-way through the talks they realized that there was nothing from the government’s side. 

“The meeting was just to create a relationship between the two parties. There was nothing much. We learnt that the Vice President was just a listening post sent by the President. UNATU just represented their case as they had done weeks ago when they met the President. But all sides were respecting each other and vice president noted that she will report the teachers' matters to the president,” Owere noted. 

In a statement released by the Vice President’s office, it was noted that the two parties agreed to have “urgent contained interactions and engagements on the issues therein.”  

To UNATU leaders, although there wasn’t much from government, this was a good starting point. Leaders stated that unlike their first meeting with the President, this time around they were given enough time to present their case and have an honest discussion with government officials on the issue at hand.  

During the discussion, there were attempts from the vice president and other officials from the government side courting UNATU to call off the strike to have all schools re-opened and all learners accessing education given the fact that they have already lost two years of learning due to COVID-19. The call was rejected.  

Baguma told our reporter that even with the talks the resumption of teaching and learning is currently contingent on the negotiation process and whether its outcome is satisfactory. to him, it is up to the government to expedite the process so that the damage caused by the striking teachers is minimized.   

//Cue in; “While negotiations are…

Cue out…learners resume.”//    

Meanwhile, the secretary-general could not resist hitting back at government officials including Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja and the Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni who have been blaming teachers for receiving free money during the lockdown and ask a pay raise when schools reopened.    

According to Baguma, such statements are insults to teachers given the fact that it was the government that closed the schools for a well-known reason of covid19 induced lockdown.    

//Cue in; “You see, all…

Cue out…going to work.”//   

Although the negotiations have started with another meeting between UNATU and the ministry of public service scheduled to take place on July 1, 2022. Signs show that the government has not yet moved from its earlier position. The government notes that it is ready to enhance teachers’ pay but this cannot be implemented in the coming financial year.    

While addressing journalists at the sidelines of the Uganda Revenue Authority budget breakfast meeting in Mbarara City on Tuesday, the State Minister of Finance in charge of General Duties, Henry Musasizi, noted government cannot increase the salary of all teachers at a go due to resource constraints.   

Available information indicates that the education ministry was allocated 95 billion shillings for salary enhancement which was all allocated to science teachers thus raising their pay by nearly 300 per cent from 1.2 million shillings to 4 million shillings. There have been calls to apportion the available funds equally to all the 169,000 teachers. If this is done, each will get a pay raise of 46,800 shillings.  

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