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Public varsities staff warn of strike in two weeks

Non-teaching staff at public universities yesterday issued an ultimatum of two weeks to the government to include their Shs 60 billion in wage arrears in the 2018/19 financial year budget.

Executive members of Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF) led by Chairperson Jackson Betihamah met Finance ministry officials yesterday. They later told journalists that government made a commitment to them in 2015 but to-date, there isn’t any sign that the directive by the president will be fulfilled.

“I acknowledge that the academic and no-teaching staff complement each other in fulfilling the core functions of the universities and government is committed to enhancing salaries of both categories,” Museveni’s letter to finance minister Matia Kasaija dated September 3, 2015, reads.

“This is, therefore, to direct that beginning with financial year 2016/17, salaries for non-teaching staff should be enhanced in an appropriate manner. The arrears arising out of non-payment of enhanced salaries due to the non-teaching staff for the financial year 2015/16 be paid together with the enhanced salaries in 2016/17.”

The team warned that a failure to provide notice of inclusion of their money in the coming budget within two weeks will prompt a sit-down strike.

“Many issues have not been addressed; we have arrears which should be included in the budget in the next financial year. Arrears for all non-teaching staff for the financial year 2016/17 have not been paid to us and salaries are paid differently despite the scales being the same,” Betihamah said.

According to a letter signed by junior minister for finance David Bahati dated April 26, 2017, to all public university vice chancellors, government appreciated the concerns raised by the representatives of staff with respect to the provision of salary enhancement in financial year 2017/18.

“As agreed in the meetings on April 1 and April 8, 2017, this is to confirm that government will provide, in FY 2017/18 an equivalent of 25% of the programmed salary enhancement amounting to Shs 19.6bn, for academic and non-teaching staff. The balance of Shs 58.8bn would be budgeted for in the next FY 2018/19 with a view to attaining the agreed pay target,” the Bahati letter read.

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