MUK don urges government to quickly resolve MUBS staff salary disparity

Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the Chairperson of the Forum for Academic Staff in Public Universities (FASPU) called on government to resolve the outstanding issue of salary disparity for academic staff at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and align it with the salary scale for existing Public Universities.

In an interview with theCooperator, the FASPU leader revealed that the issue at MUBS is that different categories of staff earn different salaries based on different appointment terms, a practice he says does not cohere with the rules governing staff remuneration in public universities.

“We stand with MUBS staff and the Government must urgently address this matter, beyond which we shall not hesitate as public universities to lay down tools in solidarity with MUBS,” Kamunyu said.

On November 15, 2020, Makerere University Business School Academic Staff Association (MUBASA) committed to an indefinite industrial action by the teaching staff, citing inconsistency in their current salaries with the Government wage bill structure for other public universities.

“The issue is underpayment. As academic staff we expected our salaries to match what the Government gives to staff in other Universities,” said Brian Muyomba, the Chairperson, MUBASA.

He vowed that MUBS’s academic staff will not relent until their expectations are met by the Government.

Varied wage categories

Currently, six wage categories exist for different staff on the MUBS payroll.

620 out of 1,187 staff members were appointed by the MUBS University Council and are under the ministry of Public service salary structure, with a 38.7 bn wage bill per year.

Moreover, 80 staff members under the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS) are still earning salary at their previous rank, despite having been promoted. The annual wage bill for this category is 6.5 bn.

The third category includes staff appointed by the Universities Council on permanent terms. 97 in number, they are paid by the University (not Government) with a wage bill of over 3.5 bn annually.

Staff who are paid by MUBS on appointment by the University Council on local contract terms are 46, while those appointed by the University Management under a similar arrangement number 299, with a wage bill of 1.3 bn and 7.7 bn per annum respectively.

The last category consists of 45 Administrative Assistants appointed by MUBS, with a wage bill of over Shs 864m per year.

In a letter dated September 1, 2020, Minister Muruli Mukasa recommended that the Government takes over the wage bill for 843 MUBS staff to match the pay scale for public Universities. He proposed that the government covers a wage deficit of over 4.92 bn that would enable the University meet its wage bill of 58.711 bn required for 2020/21.

“Considering that wage for only 843 staff has been observed to result in extremely low staffing levels of below 30%, the ministry therefore advises the management of MUBS to capture its staffing needs and submit in the recruitment plans for FY 2020/21. Once funds are provided, then these positions should be filled completely,” Muruli said.

Meanwhile, said the MUBS administration partly bears the blame for the current stalemate at the university.

“If there had been progress, maybe lecturers wouldn’t have threatened. This is an injustice that a normal management would appreciate and have it sorted. Much as the Government has resolved to have this ironed out, there are delays on the side of MUBS management,” Kamunyu said.

“We ask MUBS to cooperate with the Government such that this problem can be dealt with before we are all drawn into this course of action,” he added.

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MUASA boss threatens strike over staff salaries as universities reopen

Following the recent directive by President Museveni lifting lockdown on schools, Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe instructed staff to report back to their respective duty stations with immediate effect, as the University plans to reopen on 3rd October 2020, after more than six months of closure.

However, as public universities prepare to resume business, the Chairperson of the Forum for Academic Staff in Public Universities (FASPU), Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, who also heads Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), has warned that with the reopening of academic institutions, their expectation is that government will deliver on its promise to enhance remuneration for lecturers in public universities.

“We are sure, in the circumstances government would have an alternative for us because, they cannot possibly think we will keep quiet,” Kamunyu said.

The MUASA head says that staff negotiations with government fell flat with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown pronouncement on lockdown, something he now says they will navigate and see to it that government meets its part of bargain to the teaching staff.

“Our staff who were not properly enhanced as pro rata would have demanded are waiting for an answer, which answer lies with government.”

He hinted at trouble should government renege on its pledge in this matter.

“I hope government knows this was a solid commitment from The Fountain of Honour, which we also take very seriously, and that may threaten harmony, undermine easy reopening of the Universities and push us to unfair situations,” Kamunyu agitated.

Although government recently enhanced salary for professors in public universities to Shs 15m per month as initially agreed in 2014, Kamunyu revealed that majority of university staff remain dissatisfied by the decision to up only the professors’ pay in contravention of an agreement to increase staff compensation across the board.

“We had informed government that if they go ahead to deviate from the mode of operation originally agreed, then we would lay down our tools. That decision is still there!” Kamunyu cautioned.

Only about 300 out of over 2,900 academic staff employed by public universities are professors, with majority being Assistant Lecturers, Lecturers or Senior Lecturers.

The decision to enhance only professors’ pay has been interpreted by some as an attempt to ring fence these positions for a few individuals at a time when universities are allegedly stalling on staff promotion.

Also, with Senior Lecturers now earning about Shs 9m, four shy of the promised Shs 13m, the move has entrenched disharmony among university staff.

COVID-19 impact

Kamunyu also pointed out the impact COVID-19 has had on staff performance and social welfare.

“Our wellbeing extends to social support. There are some things we do to keep moving which are inherent in our culture that have also been discontinued. Our institutions are not very well positioned to offer necessary social support to staff and students,” he explained.

For Filbert Baguma, the Secretary General of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), the absence of necessary psycho-social support by Government to teachers, students and parents drastic affected by lockdown of schools is expected to devastate the teaching-learning process.

“Parents, teachers and learners currently have psychological torture: learners are worried about their future, the parents have failed to manage children at home and teachers, some of whom had their last salary in February, don’t know when they will get back to class,” Baguma said.

In its plan to reopen school, government has allowed finalists and students in candidate classes to return in October, while the fate of the other students remains unclear. In his last address, the President indicated that these could resume in January next year.

Both Kamunyu and Baguma maintain that the ongoing disruption of schools due to COVID-19 underscores the need for government and academic institutions to plan for such crises and build ICT infrastructure to support distance learning.

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