MUK Staff Threaten To Strike Over Suspended Tribunal

Makerere University Main Gate. PHOT/COURTESY

Makerere University staff are contemplating taking industrial action at the start of the 2023/2024 academic year unless the University Staff Appeals Tribunal is immediately reinstated. The decision was made during an emergency meeting of the University Joint Staff Associations, which includes MUASA, MASA, and NUEI, Makerere branch.

In a letter dated July 17th, 2023, addressed to the University Council, the joint staff representatives expressed serious concerns about the ongoing suspension of staff appeals and the prolonged delays in staff promotions, which have created an unhealthy and tense working environment. The Staff Appeals Tribunal has been suspended for nearly four months due to the chairperson, Justice Patrick Tabaro, lacking the required qualifications, leading to its disputed constitution.

The suspension of the tribunal has caused anxiety among the staff, as it eliminates an essential avenue for seeking justice in cases of dismissal. The tribunal has historically provided dismissed staff with an opportunity to challenge decisions made by the Appointments Board and ensure a fair hearing. Despite University Chancellor Professor Ezra Suruma’s directive to reinstate the tribunal, no action has been taken by the University Council as of the current date.

Additionally, the joint staff raised concerns about the delayed promotion of staff members who have completed their PhDs but have not been promoted to the rank of lecturer. They referred to a previous rule by the Appointments Board, stating that assistant lecturers on permanent terms should pursue their Ph.D. studies within a four-year period. The failure to comply with this directive could lead to the termination of their contracts.The staff argued that the management has harassed academic staff who were yet to complete their PhDs.

They expressed that some staff members had completed their PhDs, but due to poor record management systems, the management was unaware, leading to unjust treatment and frustration. One staff member’s contract was even terminated despite winning an appeal at the staff tribunal, but the process was deliberately prolonged until they reluctantly resigned.

The delayed promotions and lack of recognition have resulted in demotivation and resignations among the staff. Some staff members have sought opportunities at other universities where promotions are offered more promptly.The joint staff appealed for the immediate implementation of pending staff promotions and requested an allocation of 13,147,859,954 Shillings to cover these promotions.

Furthermore, they demanded the restoration of the University Staff Tribunal, stating that staff members with pending cases are suffering from agony and uncertainty. They warned that if their demands are not met, they will initiate a strike at the beginning of the academic year on August 18, 2023.Yusuf Kiranda, the Makerere University Secretary, explained that the limited funds available have posed challenges in promoting several lecturers, as each promotion attracts higher pay.

While the government provided 2.3 billion Shillings in the last financial year, it was only enough to promote 50 lecturers, leaving a deficit of at least 2 billion Shillings to promote all staff members awaiting promotion.

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