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Local government workers go on strike

Minister of Public Service Wilson Muruli Mukasa has called for calm as gov’t moves to raise salaries of public servants.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local government workers under their umbrella, the Uganda Local Government Workers Union (ULGWU) have commenced their industrial action to compel the government to enhance their salaries. In his July 13, 2022 letter to ULGWU members, the Union Secretary-General Hassan Lwabayi Mudiba, says that they decided to lay down their tools after noticing the government’s failure to address their grievances.

“We reviewed government’s commitment…and it was considered a misrepresentation of the agreed positions made in a meeting of Tuesday 6th July 2022 between Government and Uganda Local Government Workers Union and therefore, the Executive Board agreed with the commencement of industrial action,” the letter reads in part.

As required by law, the union gave the government notice of their planned strike in June of this year. However, before their planned July 6th 2022 meeting could begin, the government that had just ended a teacher’s strike a day before, invited the union officials for a meeting to chat a way forward. During the meeting, the government assured the union leaders that they would address their concerns.

However, ULGWU officials demanded that the government puts the commitment in writing. They also asked the government to commit to including the salary enhancement in the budget call circular for the financial year 2023/2024.

The Ministry of Finance often releases the budget call circular in September outlining the kind and format of the required information as well as the expenditure ceilings for each category for the upcoming fiscal year.

The union demanded a written guarantee that entry-level employees and other support staff, such as attendants, would receive Shillings 1.7 million and that Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), who currently earn Shillings 2.3 million (way below science teachers with diplomas who are set to bag Shillings 3 million despite being on a lower salary scale), would receive Shillings 15 million.

However, in his letter, the Minister of Public Service Wilson Muruli Mukasa shied away from addressing the commitments. He rather plainly stated that the government was committed to enhancing the salaries of the local government workers and when this would take effect.

“I write to advise the Union that the Government is committed to enhancing the pay of all government workers in a phased manner according to the approved salary pay plan and targets depending on the availability of resources,” the minister’s letter dated July 6 reads in part. To avoid being cornered like their colleagues from the Uganda National Teacher’s Union, Mudiba says that unless the government clarifies in writing about the promises and agreed positions during the July 6 meeting, the over 70,000 local government workers will not return to duty.

“The Executive Board agreed with the commencement of industrial action…until Government gives a credible commitment to Local Government Workers’ grievances,” his letter adds. In 2018, the government agreed to solve the matter of civil servants’ pay and disparities when it signed the Collective Bargaining (CBA) Act with the labor union.

According to the agreement, the government was supposed to increase salaries for all public servants and address salary disparities in the public service since all servants have the same qualifications, work the same hours, and pay the same bills among other reasons. Despite all the agreed positions, the government partially upheld its end of the bargain.

The government only decided to raise the pay of scientists in disregard of their colleagues in the Humanities, which has prompted disagreements from all sides. The local government workers are the latest to strike. The development comes just days after teachers suspended a three-week strike. Before teachers, there were nurses, allied health workers, and doctors.

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