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Allied health workers defy despite threat of government sacking

Health workers from different associations of paramedical professionals have pledged to continue the strike despite the government’s dismissal warnings.

Healthcare workers, which include clinicians, orthopedists and dentists, anesthesiologists, laboratory scientists, medical recorders, radiographers and pharmacy technicians, make up more than 60% of the workforce in the public healthcare system .

At a joint press conference yesterday, Mr Denis Alibu, the striking leader of the Allied Health Professionals, said they would go to court if the government fired their members without addressing the grievances that sparked the strike .

Mr Alibu and lawyer Alfred Okello of Branmark Advocates, one of the lawyers for Allied health professionals, said the government had been informed of the strike and that it was illegal to say that the workers were absent. of their functions.

“This industrial action began on May 16, following a notice we gave to the government on April 25, 2022. This notice was given following the provision of the Civil Service Order Act. Given this notice, we expected the government to take our business seriously and react accordingly to avoid the May 16 industrial action,” Alibu said.

He added: ‘As paramedics we engage the legal arm and we want to make sure that none of us have run away from duty. We have just raised our grievances and we have the right to appeal to you if we feel that we are not being treated well. If they declare these vacancies, we will comply with the law. If our issues are not addressed, we will go further to the courts to bring justice in this case, as we believe this is the highest level of repression and discrimination in the health sector.

The leaders demanded that the government specify the amount that will be granted to allied health professionals as part of the said salary increase. They said this should be in line with the 2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

“The diploma holder is expected to get Shs 3 million, the certificate holder Shs 1.3 million and the diploma holder Shs 4.8 million. We want the government to release the figures captured in the new salary structure. We will get back to work immediately after this revelation. We also want taxes on our pay to be reduced from 30% to 10%. Security guards don’t pay taxes, we also defend this country against disease,” Alibu added.

Mr. Wilson Muruli Mukasa, Minister of Public Service, at Friday’s press conference: “Government calls on allied health professionals, nurses and midwives to return to work on Monday (today). .. Failing which, all these workers will be considered as having abandoned their functions and will resign accordingly”.

On the issue of figures for health workers, he said: “Communications of revised remuneration structures will follow statutory procedures through the publication of the Standing Instruction of the Annual Public Service Salary Circular alongside the budget for the 2022/2023 financial year.

In the leaked salary structure for health workers which the ministry later called “rumors”, the salary for doctors was raised to 5 million shillings as per the 2018 ABC. But for allied health professionals, nurses and consultants, the structure indicated figures that were lower than what had been agreed in the ABC.

This improvement came from the part of Shs400b that the government earmarked for improving the salaries of health workers and scientists.

Mr Mukasa also said the ongoing industrial action breaches section 8, subsections 3a and b, of the Civil Service Negotiation, Consultation and Dispute Resolution Mechanisms Act 2008.

He said any start of industrial action should follow 90 days notice after all avenues of reconciliation, arbitration or dispute resolution with the government have been exhausted. Paramedical professionals gave their opinion on April 25, which causes them to miss this legal requirement.

However, Mr Okello, while defending the strikers at a press briefing yesterday, said the minister’s statement lacked substance.

“As part of the civil service, for anyone who works in the civil service, there is a very elaborate procedure in which you must follow before declaring that someone has run away from office. It’s not through a press release. We want to say that this statement is illegal and of no effect and cannot be based on someone’s impeachment,” he said.

“Under the Constitution it is a right to freedom of assembly, every worker has the right to unionize and it is their right to withdraw from work in accordance with the laws. The moment someone is appointed to the public service, they have protection and you don’t just fire them at their whim. A person appointed in the public services enjoys job security,” he added.

Mr Okello also said the law says a person must have been away from work for at least 30 days before declaring they are no longer interested in the workplace.

“The 30 days is if they haven’t notified you of their whereabouts, the reason for their absence from the workplace. For this case, the association gave a notice explaining that members of their association should not take office until they declared that they would report,” he said.

Due to the health workers’ strike, some units of public hospitals have closed or the scope of services has been drastically reduced. Some patients were also reportedly discharged prematurely. Many outpatients are also advised to seek treatment in private facilities.

Mr Yusuf Muyingo, a lab technologist with the Uganda Association of Medical Laboratory Technology, said doctors were “working like wizards now” due to the absence of lab scientists.

“You can’t work as a doctor without lab results because you won’t know what you’re treating. It’s now based on guesswork or predictions,” he said yesterday.

Mr Benard Atibu, a medical records officer, said they had not sent any data to the Ministry of Health. Medical data is important for hospital planning and performance evaluation.

“Last week, in the weekly report of the Ministry of Health, the whole system is in the red zone because the medical records officers did not register and submit the data from the hospitals,” he said. .

Under the Constitution, it is a right to freedom of assembly, every worker has the right to unionize and it is his right to withdraw from work in accordance with the laws. The moment someone is appointed to the public service, they have protection and you don’t just fire them on a whim,” said Barrister Alfred Okello.

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