Makerere University staff are considering industrial action at the beginning of the 2023/2024 academic year if the University Staff Appeals Tribunal is not reinstated immediately. The decision was reached during an emergency meeting of the University Joint Staff Associations, which includes MUASA, MASA, and NUEI, Makerere branch.
In a July 17th, 2023 letter addressed to the University Council, the joint staff representatives expressed concerns about the prolonged suspension of staff appeals and delays in staff promotions, creating an unhealthy working environment. The Staff Appeals Tribunal has been suspended for nearly four months because it was not properly constituted due to the chairperson, Justice Patrick Tabaro, lacking the requisite qualifications.
The suspension of the tribunal has caused tension among the staff, as it removes an essential avenue for seeking justice in cases of dismissal. The tribunal has historically provided a platform for dismissed staff to challenge decisions made by the Appointments Board and ensure a fair hearing. Despite a directive from University Chancellor Professor Ezra Suruma to reinstate the tribunal, no action has been taken by the University Council as of the current date.
The joint staff also raised concerns about the delayed promotion of staff members who have completed their PhDs but have not been promoted to the level of lecturer. They referred to a previous rule by the Appointments Board stating that assistant lecturers on permanent terms should embark on their Ph.D. studies.
Assistant Lecturers on permanent terms who had not yet embarked on their Ph.D. studies should do so immediately, and must be given a four (4) year period within which to complete their studies” and “All those who would not have completed within the given timeframe and without any justifiable reasons should have their contracts terminated”.
The staff argues that management has harassed academic staff who were yet to complete their PhDs. “The University Management constituted various Committees to harass academic staff that was yet to complete their PhDs, whereas some of the staff that was being harassed had completed their PhDs but Management could not know because of the poor record management systems,” reads the letter.
It adds that “Particularly, one staff member’s contract was terminated for failure to complete a Ph.D. he appealed at the staff tribunal, he won the appeal, but was frustrated until he voluntarily, albeit grudgingly resigned.” The staff expressed demotivation and resignations due to the lack of promotions, with some staff members joining other universities where promotions are offered more promptly.
The joint staff appealed for the immediate implementation of pending staff promotions and the allocation of 13,147,859,954 Shillings for these promotions. They also demanded the restoration of the University Staff Tribunal, stating that staff members with pending cases are facing 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. The government provided 2.3 billion Shillings in the last financial year, which enabled the promotion of 50 lecturers, but there remains a deficit of at least 2 billion Shillings to promote all staff members awaiting promotion.