The Uganda National Teachers' Union (UNATU) has resolved to continue with its industrial action despite calls for reconsideration during a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni.
Last week, UNATU announced an indefinite strike under the slogan "All teachers matter" in their quest for pay equity and harmonization among teachers of various subjects, support workers, and school administrators at all levels of education.
The strike was sparked off by a government decision to increase the pay for science teachers by nearly 300 per cent. The increment saw graduate science and grade V teachers' pay pushed to Shs 4 million and Shs 3 million up from Shs 1.1 million and Shs 796,000 respectively.
With over 120,000 teachers refusing to attend lessons in the past three working days, the government hurriedly called for dialogue and a meeting was arranged to find a quick solution. At first, the teachers' union was scheduled to meet with Education minister Janet Kataha Museveni on Friday, but the meeting was cancelled. On Saturday, UNATU leadership met President Museveni in the presence of cabinet ministers and senior government officials to discuss the matter at hand.
"After hours of discussion, the union leaders held their ground and insisted that they will not return to classes unless their concerns are addressed," an official who attended the meeting said.
Filbert Baguma, UNATU secretary-general, also confirmed the development noting that all along, the government has been underrating their concerns thinking that they will be coerced. He noted this time around they are determined and looking for results.
Baguma added that during the meeting they reminded the president that the government's move to increase payment of a section of teachers was in breach of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was signed with the government in 2018.
After referring to this agreement and steadfastly holding their stand, the president is said to have instructed officials from the public service, finance, and education to study the proposed payment plan and ensure that the disparity is corrected.
Baguma added that the resumption of teaching and learning is currently contingent on how quickly the review process is completed, whether the outcome is satisfactory, and whether the review process addresses the issue of equitable salary increases for all teachers across the board.
Baguma further noted that no time frame has been set to find a solution and that it is up to the government to expedite the process so that the damage caused by the striking teachers is minimized. While the government attempts to settle the standoff, UNATU has already proposed a salary raise plan for all teachers and other staff.
According to said draft, secondary school headteachers should receive Shs 10 million, and primary school headteachers Shs 4.5 million. UNATU is also pushing the government to pay Shs 4.8 million to graduate science teachers and Shs 4.5 million to those teaching arts and humanities. They are also advocating for Shs 1.35 million minimum wage for primary school teachers.