Makerere University 74th Graduation Ceremony Hangs In Balance As Academic Staff Kicks Off Strike Over Persistent Salary Discrepancies

Makerere University 74th Graduation Ceremony Hangs In Balance As Academic Staff Kicks Off Strike Over Persistent Salary Discrepancies

By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Members of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) have kicked off a strike today January 15th, 2024,over longstanding salary discrepancies.

According to MUASA chairperson, Dr. Robert Kakuru, the decision follows years of frustration and unmet commitments regarding the alignment of salaries with those of other public universities and the government has shown no signs of taking action.

“To date, this issue has not been addressed. We extended our deadline, promising to initiate industrial action on January 15th if the matter remains unresolved,” he said.

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Dr. Kakuru underscored the significant pay gaps between Makerere staff and their counterparts with similar qualifications in other institutions.

“Technicians, custodians, and various other positions at Makerere receive significantly lower salaries compared to their counterparts in other public universities. This disparity, which began around 2015, is the core of our grievance,” he added.

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Dr Kakuru further noted that despite numerous appeals and discussions involving government officials and university administrators, the problem has persisted and the promises by the Minister of Public Service’s guidance on harmonization last year were futile as witnessed by the absence of necessary funding in the 2023-2024 budget.

Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe acknowledged the legitimacy of the staff’s concerns noting that they have been engaging the government and parliament on the matter.

“We have consistently engaged both the government and Parliament on this matter. We urge for a swift resolution, as the disparity undeniably affects some of our staff.”

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Additionally, Justine Namudde, the Secretary General of the National Union of Education Institutions(NUEI), Makerere Branch said that it is unfair for people who have the same qualification to be receiving different salaries while others receive half of what their colleagues in other public universities get.

Namuddu said a library assistant from Makerere University earns 1.2 million shillings compared to their counterparts in Kyambogo who get more than 2 million shillings.

The deputy secretary General of MUASA, Joan Kakongoro said for a long time, the staff have tried to engage the administration and have reached several agreements, but on several occasions, the administration has not walked the talk.

On Wednesday last week, Prof. Nawangwe had asked Parliament’s Committee on Education and Sports to support the University in obtaining the urgently needed funds for salary harmonization and pro-data salary enhancement. Nawangwe and his team had appeared before the committee to defend the University’s budget framework paper for the Financial Year 2024/2025.

However, Kakuru noted that although the university administration had brought the issue before parliament, they were not convinced because the same issue was brought before parliament last year but funding was never allotted.

The Associations have been advocating for the harmonization of them to the level of their sister public Universities.  In 2017, the staff petitioned the University council over the same matter which propelled the University council to institute a salary harmonization committee in July to streamline the salary scales of Makerere University staff

In its report, then, the committee which was chaired by Thomas Tayebwa indicated that the University required 23 billion Shillings to have their staff salaries harmonized to a level of staff in other public universities.

The report indicated that the institution needed 17.7 billion Shillings to harmonize salaries for academic staff, 4.3 billion Shillings for administrative staff, and 669 million Shillings for support staff.   

The strike comes as the University prepares to begin semester two of the 2023/2024 academic year, which began on January 13, 2024 and weeks before the University’s 74th graduation scheduled for January 29, 2024.

If not contained, the massive strike is likely to cause significant and far-reaching effects on various aspects of the university, including its impact on graduation ceremony.

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