By Nakato Hellen Musoke.
The Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union (UPSTU) has threatened to go for industrial action for what they called their unresolved longstanding labour grievances.
In a four page notice to Hon Minister for Public Service dated April 22, 2022 and signed by UPSTU National Chairman Mr Vincent Elong and General Secretary Mr Aron Mugaiga, they referred to different engagements they have had with Public Service Ministry and Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) from 2019 to date, as a failure .
The matters for contention during the engagements have been over continuous discrimination and marginalization in pay enhancement for scientists.
They said efforts to meet officials at Public Service Ministry to resolve their grievances amicably in all their letters dated January 17th, 2022 and April 07th, 2022, were futile.
UPSTU Executive Committee that convened April 21st, 2022, painfully resolved and voted to consider their earlier position to withdraw labour effective May 9th, 2022, until all their grievances have been resolved.
The union said government earmarked funds to a tune of 98b in the FY2018/2019 to enhance salaries for science teachers and other scientists in education institutions.
They added that the funds were diverted while that meant for other scientists were enhanced while science teachers were left bleeding up to now despite all the engagements with the concerned government officers.
UPSTU noted that a meeting at Equal Opportunities Commission of March 30th, 2021 resolved that, all scientists in Education Institutions be recognized and paid as the other scientists who are not medical workers.
“The Ministry of Public Service agreed to correct that error immediately using the available conflict resolution mechanism in the Ministry but up to now has not done so,” said the notice.
But in a “fire – fighting” fashion the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Service wrote to UPSTU on December 03rd, 2021 (Ref: COM6/135/01), responding to their petitions on how the Ministry had initiated the process of correcting existing marginalization and discrimination effects in payout to scientists.
UPSTU members say they were informed that their concerns would be resolved in the salary harmonization exercise for all scientists effective FY2022/2023 but they have learnt the matter has been abandoned.
They said the Presidential directive and Cabinet resolutions on August 24th, 2021 to enhance salaries of all graduate science teachers to a minimum entry level of UShs 4m for all new graduate and a Grade V entry level of 3m effective FY2022/2023, has not been honored by responsible ministry departments.
UPSTU noted that government provided Ushs 400b in the budget to enhance salaries for all scientists including Science teachers and medical workers for the FY 2022/2023 as per the policy approved by cabinet and directed by H.E the President.
“On this fund Ushs 111b had been earmarked to enhance salaries for Science teachers and Ushs 27b for Scientists in Tertiary institutions,” said UPSTU notice.
The union said they have noted with concern that Public Service Ministry, has yet again excluded scientists in all Post Primary Education Institutions. But instead the ministry has diverted the money that was earmarked to enhance salaries of scientists to boost salary enhancement for the other sectors.
UPSTU notes failure by Ministry of Education and Sports to implement the promotional ladder as stipulated in the Teachers’ Scheme of Service policy document.
They say Personnel working in Education Institutions have stagnated at certain lower levels despite having attained higher qualifications or required experience. The union cites a case in point for the many Assistant Education Officers who have attained bachelor’s degrees as many as more than ten years but their promotion has met a winding road with some retiring at a disgruntling salary scale.
Public Service Ministry is castigated for failing to create science salary scales for Deputies and Head teachers of science qualification after the withdrawal of science allowances in November 2019 .
“ Head teachers and Deputies of science qualification remain scientists since they are actively teaching some minimum lessons in addition to their administrative duties” union members asserted.
UPSTU noted deplorable lack of safety precautions where Science teachers have been exposed to dangerous chemicals that have on many occasions caused bodily harm due to lack of protective gears as they conducted practical lessons.
“Government should provide science teachers with protective gears for use while preparing and conducting practical lessons,” the union demanded.
“Our employer has failed put up clear compensation mechanisms for science teachers who lose lives or get injured while preparing and conducting practical lessons for the learners,” said the union.
UPSTU also accused government for failure to create a salary scale for laboratory technicians in Post Primary education institutions like they have done in medical, despite them having qualifications in Laboratory Science Technology.
The workers resolved to withdraw labour effective May 9th, 2022, and demanded that funds meant for salary enhancement for science teachers, tutors, instructors, lecturers and Lab Technicians in schools that were diverted to boost salary enhancement of other scientists in the other sectors, be reverted to enhance salaries for scientists in education sector.
They want Public Service Ministry to implement the Presidential directive and Cabinet resolutions of August 24th, 2021 to enhance salaries for all scientists including Science Teachers to the tune of Ushs 4m for new graduates and Ushs 3m for Diploma holders in FY2022/2023.
UPSTU Chairman Mr Vincent Elong told the Workers Eye that they demand the Public Service Ministry to stop treating science teachers and those working in the education sector as “lesser scientists”.
He said the Ministry should respect the government decision taken in the circular Standing Instruction of 2012 to recognize Science Teachers as Scientists which was again reaffirmed in another circular letter of 2017 by Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Service.
“ We demand that establishment notices number 4 of 2018 that categorized science teachers as non-scientists be repealed and the earlier position honored.
Mr Elong said the Ministry of Education and Sports should implement the promotional ladder as stipulated in the Teachers’ Scheme of Service.
He said:” Government should avail adequate resources and funding to facilitate science laboratory and implementation of the new lower secondary curriculum at school level.”
The union leader said government should consider administrators who specialized in science subjects for enhancement under science category like it is being done in other sectors without discrimination.
“Government should create a science salary scale catering for Laboratory Science Technicians working in school setting as it is being done in the other sectors like in medical,: he said.
The letter is copied to H.E President of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Uganda Parliament, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Others copied include Minister of Information, ICT and National Guidance, Minister of Education and Sports, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Service, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Sports, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Secretary General, Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) and All Heads of Post Primary Education Institutions■