A member of Uganda’s Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) said the lecturers still plan to go on strike unless the government meets their demands for improved wages and benefits.
During their strike in August, President Yoweri Museveni promised the teachers their concerns would be addressed.
But Mohammed Kiggundu Musoke, spokesman for MUASA, said the government has so far failed to fulfill its promise.
“First and foremost, when we resolved that we were suspending the strike [last year], we agreed talks will go on with the government to look at the question of the salary change. But, on getting there, what was expressed was that there was no money,” he said.
Musoke said the lecturers need the increase to compensate for their small wages and hyper-inflation. He also said the government has yet to resolve the issue of retirement benefits.
“We know that the university itself, at a time when they’ve been complaining of having no money, 31-billion Ugandan shillings was used, and the members are saying that this money should come back to the Board of Trustees for this retirement benefit,” Musoke said.
Elizabeth Gabona, the chairperson of the Ugandan Ministry of Education Committee set up to look into the salary and pension issues, reportedly appealed to the lecturers to be patient because their demands were being looked into by various government ministries.
But, Musoke said the lecturers do not trust the Ministry of Education because the government has failed to treat their demands as urgent.
“She [Ms. Gabona] has the right to say that, but we don’t trust that because the dates were fixed by the ministry that, by the end of October, a report would be out, and when the chairman went over he was promised that it would be mid-November and then, [during] another visit, we were told that it would be at the end of November. And, all these days are gone. So, we believe this issue has not been handled as a sensitive issue,” Musoke said.
Musoke said the lecturers will only go on strike as a last resort only if the government fails to meet their demands.
“If the demands are attended to, I think we can take away the issue of the strike and never look at it again, but the problem is promises, promises and, when it comes to solve these issues, firefighting method is used. These are issues which have been on the table for a long time,” Musoke said.
He said the lecturers will reconvene to consider their options when they return from their Christmas and New Year break later this month.