University Staff Claim Wage Discrimination

Support staff associations at public universities want parliament’s committee on education, science, technology and sports to compel the education ministry to revise its budget to include a pay boost.

The staff, organised as Public Universities of Uganda Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF), say they want government to raise their pay to the same level as their academic counterparts.

The call follows meetings PUNTSEF held at Kyambogo University on April 11 and April 18, where they resolved that they would engage in industrial action unless their demands were met.

PUNTSEF members say they were unhappy that President Museveni did not raise their salaries to the same level as their academic counterparts. The president made the pledge to all public university academic staff, during a meeting with Makerere University officials at State House last August, following a student strike over a planned tuition increment.

“The president should not have made a discrimination between university staff – we are all the same. We want our salaries raised pro rata, and we shall not back down,” said Jackson Betihamah, PUNTSEF chairman, last week.

PUNTSEF claims that it has a membership of over 4,000, who last week wrote to the prime minister.

According to budget proposals for the next financial year, the government has allocated Shs 50bn to accommodate a salary increment for only academic staff in public universities. This indicates that the promise to increase the salaries of professors (expected to earn Shs 15m monthly) will be fulfilled in three phases.

According to a letter from the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to their education counterparts, the government is expected to part with Shs 272bn to pay academic staff in the first phase, and Shs 415bn in the second and third phases, in which administrators will be included. But the February 18 letter does not mention any plans for support staff.

Meanwhile meetings by non-teaching staff associations in public universities and other degree awarding institutions resolved that the executives of the various university associations form a single forum.

The goal was “to lead the struggle for an equal and across The-board salary enhancement of all staff in public universities of Uganda as opposed to the proposed single academic staff enhancement”.

If no review of the budget indicative figures is conducted to meet their demands by July, PUNTSEF members say they are preparing for a showdown with government.

As all this is happening, there is the likelihood that the government will have to deal with a dissatisfied university- teaching workforce, as well as grumbling primary and secondary school teachers, all demanding better wages.

Source : The Observer

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