The Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) has distanced itself from a petition challenging salary disparities between science and arts teachers.
Last week, lawyer Robert Rutaro petitioned the Constitutional court seeking a declaration that the government’s decision to increase only the salaries of science teachers while excluding the arts teachers is illegal, unreasonable, unconstitutional, and a violation of various conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Rutaro argued that the decision goes against the collective bargain agreement that was signed by the government and unions of public servants in 2018 where all the parties agreed upon acceptable salary enhancement structures.
He filed the case at the time when the teachers had gone on strike protesting the government’s decision to raise science teachers’ salaries by over 300 per cent from Shs 1.1 million to Shs 4 million. But in a letter to the registrar of the Constitutional court, Unatu general secretary Filbert Bates Baguma says he was listed as one of the witnesses without consent.
“This serves to inform the court that the said petitioner did not get my consent before filing the subject petition and therefore, Uganda National Teachers Union – Unatu dissociates itself from the said petition,” reads the letter.
But Rutaro says he contacted Baguma as the Unatu general secretary seeking correspondence between the union and government since they were in talks to enable him to support his case as evidence. George Musisi and Ivan Bwowe, both lawyers, note that a lawyer doesn’t need to seek consent from someone to list them as a witness to support a court case.
Musisi noted that consent is needed only when they want to list them as parties filing the case but not as witnesses. He said under the Evidence Act, court can compel anybody who has information of evidential value to appear in court as a witness. Bwowe believes that seeking consent should only be done as a matter of courtesy and on the moral ground but it is not a necessity.
“It is a prudent practice that state witnesses that are ready to be a witness. But it is not fatal that a person listed as a witness does not want to be a witness. It would be professional to seek their consent, courts can compel people to be witnesses according to the Evidence Act.”
On Monday this week, teachers resolved to call off the strike after a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni who promised to address their grievances.