Government has ordered teachers to go back to school or risk getting sacked
A section of legislators have lashed out at the Ministry of Public Service over threats to fire all arts striking teachers, warning that the reckless actions of government will cost taxpayers in paying fines to the teachers.
The lawmakers warning followed a letter issued by Catherine Bitarakwate, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Service addressed to the General secretary, Uganda National Teachers Association Union (UNATU) where she issued ultimatum to all government employed teachers to return back to school or get fired.
In her letter, Bitarakwate castigated UNATU for refusing to issue Government with a notice to strike as provided for in section 7(2)(a) and (b) and 8(1) and (3) Act the Public Service Negotiating Consultative and Disputes Settlement Machinery Act 2008 and Recognition Agreement signed under this Act and refused to exhaust all reconciliation measures highlighted in the Dispute Settlement Machinery been exhausted.
She wrote, “The claim that the strike has been ongoing since 2019 and hence there was no need for a new notice is both fallacious and not legally tenable.”
Government also accused teachers of orchestrating the plot to close down schools, a move government termed as illegal noting, “We wish to advise you that no teacher whether on strike or not has the legal right or justification to close a public school without the concurrence of Government.”
To keep up with her threats, Bitarakwate ordered all teachers to return back to school or seek legal redress and those who can’t work under the current terms to hand in their resignation.
“All government employed teachers are advised to resume duty at their respective workstations by 24th June 2022 without fail. Any government employed teacher who does not comply to this call will be regarded as having abandoned duty and resigned from Public Service in accordance with section A-n(17) of the Uganda Public Service Standing Orders 2021,” wrote Batarakwate.
Reacting to the directive by Government, Donozio Kahonda (Ruhinda County) castigated the discriminative decision to increase salaries of science teachers, leaving out arts teachers and called for the establishment of a salary review Commission to review salaries of all public servants.
He remarked, “We tried to resist it as parliament but the Chief Executive Officer insisted and now when you look at the repercussions, we can’t run the country like this. Local government employees have also issued ultimatum to also so on strike from 6th July 2022, we can’t continue like this. Let us have a salary review commission to review all the public service salary structures, other than that, we are sitting on a time bomb.”
Kahonda backed the teachers strike remarking that teachers are free to strike because the issues raised by teachers are very pertinent.
“The challenge we have, we think that science teachers are scientists, science teachers aren’t scientists. Science teachers actually explain what scientists did. For example if a physics teacher tells you about the law of Newton on forces, he is telling you what Newton discovered, in other words, the scientist there is Newton not the teacher,” said Kahonda.
Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) questioned the basis upon which Government used to declare the teachers strike illegal, arguing that the industrial action hasn’t created any insecurity, not led to loss of life and there hasn’t been any destruction of property occasioned, but instead, it is the threats from Government that are illegal.
“I hope Public Service has read the law very well and has read the constitution well. If they delete anybody from the payroll because she or he hasn’t gone back to school, or if they terminate the employment contracts of those teachers because they haven’t gone back to teach, as per these threatening communications, then let them expect a barrage of law suits against government and it is the tax payer who is going to suffer,” said Basalirwa.
He also warned Ministry of Public Service against occasioning losses to the taxpayer by engaging in illegalities of threatening to fire striking teachers arguing that it is Government’s letter that is illegal and not the actions of the teachers.
“Some of us are prepared to defend the teachers. I would advise government to choose the path of negotiations, intimidation, threats, name calling isn’t going to solve this issue because at the end of it all, it is the soul we should appeal to, if the teachers are compelled to go back to class when their souls are elsewhere, our children are going to get a raw deal,” said Basalirwa.