NRM condemns Nawangwe, Makerere staff start strike

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James Tweheyo, National Chairman Workers’ League speaking to press

The Worker’s League of the ruling National Resistance Movement [NRM Workers League] has condemned the suspension of Makerere University staff association leaders.

James Tweheyo, National Chairman Workers’ League [NRM Central Executive Committee] in a press release issued Monday January 21, 2019, said he had noted with concern the actions taken by Makerere Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe on the leadership of the university staff associations.

Makerere University Academic Staff [MUASA] chairman, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, Bennet Magara, the chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association (MASA), and his general secretary, Joseph Kalema, were suspended last week for indiscipline and inciting fellow staff.

“Whereas we commend the Vice Chancellor for decisively working on the discipline and revamping the university glory, we are concerned by the way the university is handling issues of the staff,” Tweheyo said.

In his view, the suspension of leaders of staff associations was an action not called for at this very moment and the Vice Chancellor handled it personally.

Victoria University

“Why, if these people were undisciplined, did he not submit the concerns and subject them to the relevant university disciplinary organs to take a decision on them?”

“It looks like the Vice Chancellor is trying to gag associations and this begs the question: in whose interest is he working?”

Tweheyo commended staff for standing with their leadership and encouraged them to remain calm and firm but open to discussion.

He called upon the Vice Chancellor “to swallow his humble pie” and call off the suspension of the associations’’ leadership saying if they have any issues, let him present them to the relevant university organs for scrutiny and action.

“As National Workers’ leadership we cannot fold our hands and see workers being trampled on.”

He said this unfortunate incident could have a ripple effect on other public universities in the whole country and create unnecessary paralysis to the students’ detriment.

Makerere staff confirm strike

Meanwhile, Makerere University staff have confirmed they are on strikie, accusing Nawangwe of telling lies by dismissing their industrial action.

The staff refused to return to work leaving students who have just reported stranded with no lectures.

Nawangwe had denied the strike in a series of tweets where he even accused NTV Uganda and Daily Monitor of allegedly reporting fake news.

“Lectures are on-going across all colleges of the University. Taking pictures of random lecture rooms with no classes allocated to them on the timetable is no justification,” the university tweeted.

Prof. Nawangwe‏ himself tweeted: “I wonder why NTV is spreading fake news about a strike at Makerere University? The University opened for classes yesterday and many classes took place.”

But the lawyer representing the suspended staff, Isaac Ssemakadde, told Daily Monitor Prof Nawangwe was treating his employees like “kindergarten children.”

“Makerere staff are mature workers whose dignity and grievances should be handled with great national concern. Staff are open to negotiations and Nawangwe should stop going to media telling lies. Threats and lies must stop,” the lawyer noted.

The university management and the new chairperson of the university council, Lorna Magara, tried to negotiate with striking lecturers on Tuesday to no avail.

The vice chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Edward Mwavu, told Monitor that Magara pleaded for more time to look into their issues.

She promised to do that when the old council chaired by Charles Wana-Etyem hands over office in February.

“Our strike is still on-going until we agree with the university management on when they are going to handle our grievances,” Mwavu said.

He added: “We met management to lay ground for the dialogue but nothing came of it. But we are going to meet again next week and if the university agrees to work on our demands, we will call the general assembly and call off the strike.”

The acting vice chancellor, Dr Eria Hisali, also pleaded with the striking staff to resume work as the university continues negotiating with them on how to solve their grievances.

The president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Makerere Chapter, Edmond Mugabe says the students will join the strike if this issue is not quickly resolved.

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