Legislators have called on the government to treat teachers equally following the increment in the salaries for science teachers in public schools.
The increment which commences in the new Financial Year 2022/2023 locks out arts teachers, a development that has caused acrimony among different stakeholders with the Uganda National Teacher’s Union (UNATU) announcing a sit-down strike for the affected teachers which started on Wednesday, 15 June 2022.
UNATU also cited failure by the government to honour a collective bargaining agreement arrived at in 2018 to enhance salaries.
In a press conference held on Thursday, 23 June 2022 at Parliament, MPs expressed discontent with the decision taken by the government giving teachers a two-day ultimatum within which to cease their industrial action.
Commenting on the stand off, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Forum on Labour, Decent Employment and Productivity (UPFLEP), Roland Ndyomugyenyi, said considering only science teachers for a pay raise is not only discriminatory but wrong and irregular.
He said Arts disciplines contribute as much to our economy as science disciplines.
“If the government encourages sciences without art subjects that instil moral fiber in the generations like religious Studies, then the nation is in a huge problem. Many of our leaders are students of the arts and the arts are a big support system of the sciences. It has been many years of promises from government in regard to salary increase, so now is the time to adjust for all,” he said.
Ndyomugyenyi added if the science teachers are having their pay adjusted, it would only make sense for every teacher to get a pay increase because all are playing a big role in the lives of the future leaders of this country.
According to Buhweju County MP, Hon. Francis Mwijukye, the government is issuing threats against UNATU through the Ministry of Public Service.
“The Ministry of Public Service should be protecting the teachers against threats. The document released by them is unfair, illegitimate and is against the Employment Act,” Mwijukye said.
He added that the teachers should not be forced to teach because it could be viewed as a political move.
“There should not be any form of division amongst people of the same profession in any way. They should be treated the same because one subject relies on others too,” he noted.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Hon. Asuman Basalirwa, described the ongoing situation as a crisis that needs to be addressed.
“The teachers are only demanding for their constitutional rights, they are government employees governed by the labour laws and protected by it,” he said.
Basalirwa also cautioned government officers trying to implement the directives by the Government.
“No officer, therefore, has the right to intimidate them as they have the freedom of collective bargaining. The officers who will do this should be ready to personally pay for the damages and costs that will arise from the court cases among others,” Basalirwa added.
He recommended that a supplementary budget should be put in place for equitable rights of both the science and arts teachers.
He also said that government should withdraw the ‘threatening document’ and rather engage and negotiate with the teachers.
Joseph Ssewungu, Kalungu County West MP, said that the decision to pay science teachers in exclusion of arts teachers is discriminatory according to Article 102b of the Constitution.
“All the teachers have teaching certificates and should not be discriminated against. The job description is the same and a teacher cannot be equated to a doctor,” he said.
Ssewungu advised the Ministry of Public Service to be technocrats who give ideas and advise Parliament to make better decisions for Ugandans.
Catherine Bitarakwate, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, said that any teacher who would not resume work by Friday, 24 June 2022 “would be fired”.