By Henry Mayega
In the budgetary estimates for the financial year 2013/14, the Government increased the pay for Civil Servants by 4% across the board.
The teachers who were involved in industrial action benefited from this increment as well, which means their demand for a pay rise in this financial year, as agreed earlier with the Government, stands at 16%.
The teachers, through their industrial action, made their point by downing their tools and the Government has recognised their plight.
The Government has on the other hand explained its willingness to pay the teachers a good salary in a sustained manner after creating that capacity through investing heavily this financial year in the energy (electricity) and road sectors in order to spur a development that would turn in more taxable income and tax revenue (increased tax base) which is why this administration has postponed the said salary enhancement.
It should be noted that a financial year is not too long a time as some may want us to believe. June 2014 is just around the corner and by the time the on-going arguments regarding salary enhancement dry up, a new financial year will be born. Which is why teachers should be encouraged to turn their UNATO into a strong lobby group rather than a band of strikers.
This stance, if taken, will turn UNATU’s anarchic methods of striking into a strong force that will constructively engage the Government for a better pay. The lobby does not necessarily have to live for one year and its methods of work may not necessarily be prescribed as striking or industrial action.
Modern management has helped modern organisations avoid unwarranted strikes which in a majority of cases constitute a draw back on the operations and running of those very institutions thereby impacting negatively on their product which in the case of UNATU are pupils.
Secondly, being teachers, UNATU’s membership shoulders a huge responsibility of a professional code of conduct which emphasises the right and welfare of the learners. This responsibility assumes several dimensions including; to ensure that students do not become the victims of the industrial action given the fact that, for instance, this is a promotional term, that parents who have diligently paid fees for their children do not lose out, that public schools do not become a battle ground amongst their stakeholders leading to a degeneration in performance and the resultant massacre of UPE and USE programmes that benefit the Ugandans.
I saw Pereza G. Ahabwe’s article titled; “Strike has Economic and Political Cost”, in the New Vision of September 24, 2013. To a point I agreed with him except that he did not articulate ably the budgetary implications of the sh130b required to effect the teachers’ pay rise.
This pay rise has the potential of destabilising the budgeting cycle, if effected. Pereza himself, a former minister, knows exceedingly well that any budgeting cycle can be shocked by un-anticipated shortfalls of revenue and expenditures that may require a country to re-adjust its expenditures even if promises were made as the case was for the teachers and Bududa landslides.
Ahabwe asks, “… what will be the miracle in the 2014/15 budget… the Government promises to meet the promised milk and honey to teachers?” As part of Government for some time back, Ahabwe knows that supplementary budgets are possible especially if there is a windfall in revenue.
The Government has explained that its intention is to recruit more teachers to step up the teacher/pupil ratio to rhyme with the law. The opposition and some civil society organisations (CSOs) have jumped into the fray by portraying the Government as being insensitive.
Some of these CSOs (not for naming here) have, themselves, had financial problems and have run to either local embassies or sister institutions for help and have had to re-adjust their budgets owing to shortage of funds, donor fatigue/credit crunch in the West.
The budget for the financial year 2013/14 has provided for sh5b purposely for teachers’ SACCOs. Two things emerge namely, the objective of Government to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst teachers and secondly a realisation that salaries can never enrich us.
Teachers should be encouraged to embrace this opportunity because it provides light at the end of the tunnel.
Lastly, the membership of UNATU should interest themselves in knowing and tracking the sh3,000 deducted from teachers’ pay and transferred to UNATU account plus other monies the umbrella organisation attracts from other organisations like the International Labour Organization (ILO). Are there audit reports and how does this fund benefit a UNATU member?
The writer is NRM Special Mobiliser