The ongoing nurses and midwives strike is illegal. This is according to the Ministry of Public Service.
The Ministry’s declaration comes after nurses and midwives under their union, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council on Tuesday laid down their tools due to the government’s failure to reveal their salary increment in the next financial year.
According to the Public Service Negotiating, Consultative, and Disputes Settlement Machinery Act of 2008, public servants are supposed to give a 90-day notice before laying down their tools. During these 90 days, the union is supposed to meet with employers to find a way of addressing the demands of those affected without going on strike.
The Minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa says that the nurses and midwives did not exhaust all possible avenues of resolving their pending strike before they laid down their tools.
Mukasa has given health workers two days to report to work or seek employment elsewhere.
The minister directed all heads of hospitals to register all the names of the health workers who will not have returned to work on Monday.
In addition to not carrying out mediation meetings with the government, the nurses and midwives are being accused of abandoning their stations. According to the law, during a strike essential services like healthcare are not supposed to be interrupted during a strike.
Betty Amongi, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development says some nurses who were not interested in joining the strike are being threatened. She says this has left the health sector understaffed severely.
Amongi requested the midwives union to allow nurses interested in going back to work to do so. According to her some nurses at big hospitals like Mulago National Referral Hospital are being threatened not to go back to work.
Muruli also urged all health workers to remain patient as the government is working towards fulfilling all pending salary enhancement promises.
“We have heard various engagements with the unions and ministries and the topic has been salary enhancements. And we have had some progress. It is no longer what it was in 2027, we have had some progress. The issue of salary enhancements has been budgeted for in the 2023/2024 budget and this will affect all health workers even sweepers in hospitals,” he added.
Justus Kiplangat Cherop, the union leader of the Uganda Midwives and Nurses Union however remains adamant that they will not call off the strike.
According to Cherop, their strike is legal and will continue until the government can reveal what pay rise they will receive in the next financial year.
According to Cherop, they will continue striking until the government gives them the information that they need.
“I have advised my people but they want money. We shall remain on strike until the government reveals how much we shall earn, we shall remain on strike. Even if we lose our jobs its okay,” he added.
Mukasa declined to comment on why the government has failed to reveal the salary.