Govt to only ne­go­ti­ate pay rise with unions

Uganda said the work­ers’ unions have a le­gal man­date that the as­so­ci­a­tions do not

The East African - - NEWS - By DICTA ASIIMWE Spe­cial Correspondent

With pub­lic ser­vants in­creas­ingly threat­en­ing in­dus­trial ac­tion as a way to de­mand bet­ter pay, the Ugan­dan gov­ern­ment has said it will only ne­go­ti­ate with unions and not work­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions.

This de­ci­sion will ex­clude some civil ser­vants. The gov­ern­ment said the work­ers’ unions have a le­gal man­date that the as­so­ci­a­tions don’t.

The gov­ern­ment has a bud­get of Ush3.6 tril­lion ($974.6 mil­lion) to pay about 400,000 em­ploy­ees an­nu­ally, but a large amount of this money is used to pay top cadres.

David Karubanga, Min­is­ter of State for Pub­lic Ser­vice, said as­so­ci­a­tions make un­rea­son­able de­mands or de­mand time lines that are im­pos­si­ble to im­ple­ment. Trade unions are more rea­son­able, he said.

“As­so­ci­a­tions have hi­jacked the role of trade unions and they are com­pro­mis­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery,” said Mr Karubanga.

There is an on­go­ing strike by doctors and pub­lic pros­e­cu­tors. Mak­erere Univer­sity lec­tur­ers as­so­ci­a­tion will meet on Novem­ber 17 to de­cide whether to take in­dus­trial ac­tion.

Uganda has an un­equal pay struc­ture, with the high­est paid gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial earn­ing 277 times more than the low­est paid worker. The high­est paid gov­ern­ment work­ers also get huge al­lowances.

Ek­waru Ebuku from the Uganda Medical As­so­ci­a­tion (UMA) pointed out that money for pol­i­tick­ing is al­ways raised.

The gov­ern­ment has for the past three weeks raised and dis­trib­uted a to­tal of Ush13 bil­lion ($3.5 mil­lion) to Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, while an­other Ush5.5 bil­lion ($1.5 mil­lion) was given to Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment lead­ers to pop­u­larise the re­moval of the age limit clause from the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Ek­waru, if the gov­ern­ment can raise money this quickly for po­lit­i­cal is­sues, the same should be done to raise money for medical work­ers’ re­mu­ner­a­tion and sup­plies like drugs, gloves, boots and main­te­nance of health fa­cil­i­ties.

The gov­ern­ment also wants the health mon­i­tor­ing unit dis­banded, say­ing it is un­der­min­ing the work of the Uganda Medical and Den­tal Prac­ti­tion­ers Coun­cil. The health mon­i­tor­ing unit is an agency that was estab­lished by Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni.

David Bax­ter Bak­ibinga, Pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of pros­e­cu­tors said the move to only al­low work­ers’ unions to call for a strike is il­le­gal and dis­crim­i­na­tory.

Mr Bak­ibinga said reg­is­ter­ing a union re­quires a group to have 1,000 work­ers, while there are not that many pros­e­cu­tors. How­ever, he said as­so­ci­a­tions have called for strikes at a time when the unions, which fol­low the law, are still wait­ing for the salary re­view com­mis­sion.

“Nor­mally, trade unions give a warn­ing, but the cur­rent in­dus­trial ac­tions are be­ing pushed by as­so­ci­a­tion lead­ers who are cham­pi­oning per­sonal in­ter­ests,” said Mr Karun­banga.

He added that the unions also in­volve peo­ple who are not gov­ern­ment work­ers. The UMA strike saw in­tern doctors down their tools as well.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­is­ter of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng, in­tern doctors shouldn’t be strik­ing, as they are stu­dents with no gov­ern­ment con­tract.

“In­tern donors are trainee doctors who are not in for­mal em­ploy­ment and there­fore are paid an al­lowance and not a salary, they will con­tinue to be paid the same al­lowance of last year,” Ms Aceng said in a state­ment.

Se­nior house of­fi­cers (doctors do­ing their post grad­u­at­ing train­ing) have also laid down their tools un­der UMA, yet not all are gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees.

The gov­ern­ment em­ploys just 2,300 doctors to treat a pop­u­la­tion of 38 mil­lion, so the in­terns fill the gap es­pe­cially lay at Mu­lago Na­tional Re­fer­ral hos­pi­tal.

The in­tern doctors are de­mand­ing hous­ing and an in­crease in al­lowances, some­thing that gov­ern­ment will not be able to solve through the salary re­view com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion is sup­posed to fig­ure out a salary struc­ture, given that the to­tal wage bill of a few work­ers un­der the statu­tory bod­ies is more than what is paid to the pub­lic ser­vice.

“The statu­tory agen­cies, which em­ploy about 8,000 work­ers, have a wage bill that is much more than the rest of the civil ser­vice em­ploy­ees,” said Enock Twinoburyo, an econ­o­mist.

But Mr Karubanga dis­putes this claim. With a group of 8,000 statu­tory work­ers hav­ing a to­tal wage bill that is higher than the over 300,000 civil ser­vants, the salary re­view com­mis­sion faces a huge task.

A source who asked for anonymity told The Eastafrican that the huge dif­fer­ences in salaries is the rea­son the salary re­view com­mis­sion re­port is yet to be re­leased.

“Em­ploy­ees of statu­tory em­ploy­ees earn­ing much more than of­fi­cials in the civil ser­vice is some­thing that the salary com­mis­sion is yet to re­solve,” says a pub­lic ser­vice of­fi­cial who pre­ferred anonymity.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Ma­tia Ka­saija, the plan is to have the high­est paid gov­ern­ment worker earn­ing not more than 10 times the amount paid to the least paid em­ployee.

This would mean the gov­ern­ment will ei­ther sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease salaries of pub­lic ser­vants or ef­fect mas­sive salary re­duc­tions. Bank of Uganda Gover­nor Em­manuel Tu­musi­ime Mute­bile, the high­est­paid gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, earns 277 times more than the low­est paid civil ser­vants.

But to re­duce Mr Mute­bile’s salary, for ex­am­ple, the gov­ern­ment would have to wait un­til Jan­uary 2021 as most statu­tory body work­ers have con­tracts of be­tween three and seven years. In the case of par­lia­ment, which also has one of the best paid em­ploy­ees, re­mu­ner­a­tion is de­ter­mined by the MPS them­selves.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Aceng, the gov­ern­ment is count­ing on the salary re­view com­mis­sion to find a last­ing so­lu­tion to the in­equal­ity in re­mu­ner­a­tion in the pub­lic ser­vice.

As­so­ci­a­tions have hi­jacked the role of trade unions and they are com­pro­mis­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery,” David Karubanga, Min­is­ter of State for Pub­lic Ser­vice

Pic­ture: File

The high­est-paid gov­ern­ment worker in Uganda earns 277 times more than the low­est-paid worker.

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