President Yoweri Museveni has directed the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to monitor all health centres and report doctors absent from duty effective today, sources have indicated. The presidential directive follows four days of industrial action by the medics, who want their salaries raised and working conditions improved.
On Monday medics under their umbrella body of Uganda Medical Workers Association led by Dr. Ekwaro Obuku went on strike following government’s failure to heed to their pleas of better pay and favorable working conditions.
According to health minister Jane Ruth Aceng, on November 7 the ministry of health wrote to the Solicitor General seeking for advice about the doctors’ industrial action, and in response the SG advised the ministry to negotiate with the striking doctors as government waits for the finalization of the bill that is aimed at the harmonisation of salaries across the board.
The SG however, noted that the striking medical workers did not follow that right procedures before withdrawing their labour, saying they had to notify the ministry 90 days before going on strike.
On Wednesday Dr. Aceng convened a press conference at Uganda Media Centre and urged the medical workers to resume work, promising that government would respond to their concerns in late November.
And yesterday, Dr. Aceng warned Uganda Medical Workers Association to ‘stay away from government business’, adding that those calling for continuation of the strike should be treated as trespassers.
“Uganda Medical Workers Association is registered as a company and not an association therefore it is not legally mandated to negotiate for health workers remuneration. Therefore, all medical workers, interns who were misled to join the illegal strike must resume duty with immediate effect and all interns who will not adhere to this directive shall forfeit their internship and be required to reapply for reconsideration”, Dr. Aceng said at a press briefing held at the health ministry headquarters last night.
She added: “Health workers who resume duty shall be provided adequate protection by government and all ring leaders of this illegal strike must desist from interfering with the smooth provision of medical services in the country.”
According to the Minister, the UMWA is not a registered association and does not enjoy rights, immunities and privileges provided under Labor Union Act.
However, UMWA chairperson Dr. Obuku insisted that the industrial action will go on and vowed to call Dr. Aceng for ‘disciplinary action’, saying she subscribes to the association.
Meanwhile, in the latest development the doctors, at a press briefing at Kampala Club, say they are considering taking the strike a notch higher, with threats to immediately withdraw the provision of emergency services offered to pregnant mothers and accident victims.
“We are going to maintain the industrial strike over poor pay and are going to scale up emergencies until our concerns are addressed to with appropriate measures,” Dr. Obuku said, adding: “The chief organizer of all strikes in the medical fraternity is the government itself which does not bother about improving standards of its employees.”