The Centre for Legal Aid has advised Makerere University Council to disregard the disciplinary process by the Appointments Board and reinstate the suspended staff association leaders.
This follows resolutions from the University Council the emergency meeting held on Tuesday February 12, 2019 in an attempt to ease the stalemate at Uganda's highest institution of learning.
The staff associations including Makerere University Academic Staff Association - MUASA, Makerere Administrative Staff Association - MASA and the National Union of Education Institutions – NUEI recently announced a large scale strike to compel management to reinstate Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the MUASA Chairperson, Bennet Magara, the MASA chairperson and his Secretary Joseph Kalema.
Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe suspended the trio for allegedly inciting staff and flouting their terms of employment.
The staff associations contracted, Advocate Isaac Ssemakadde from the Centre for Legal Aid to represent their leaders. Ssemakadde says subjecting the issue of the suspended staff to the disciplinary process will only prolong the current Labour dispute.
"It is respectfully recommended that Council abandons the botched Appointments Board process, immediately reinstates the suspended leaders unconditionally and sets up an adhoc committee to negotiate and consult with the striking staff lawfully, faithfully and in a timely fashion on all their demands for the time being," Ssemakadde advises.
He further opines that the suspension of Dr. Deus Kamunyu is illegal, null and void and will automatically expire on Sunday, 17 February 2019 while the suspension of Kalema and Magara expired on January 21, 2019.
The University Council resolved on Tuesday under Resolution No.3 "that matters relating to the suspension of staff or any other matter concerning the governance of the University shall be handled in accordance with the laws, policies and procedures governing the University."
But Ssemakadde says Section 63(2) of the Employment Act, which caps an investigative suspension or interdiction to only 4 (four) weeks - was not brought to Council's attention. At the emergency Council meeting, a decision was unanimously taken to disband the two committees set by Prof. Nawangwe to investigate the suspended staff.
Although the reason for their disbandment is not indicated in the statement communicating the resolution, Ssemakadde observes that this Council desires to protect the Vice Chancellor's ego after it was clear that the trio's suspension was merit-less.
Staffs have maintained that the suspended staff be unconditionally reinstated. In his status report to the University Council, Prof. Nawangwe said there was no provision in the University Human Resources Manual for lifting the suspension unconditionally; arguing that doing so would create a culture of impunity and defiance among staff.
But Ssemakadde says they respectfully disagree saying it only requires the CEO to understand that he made a mistake and withdraw it.
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Ssemakadde observes that continued exclusion of the MASA representative, Ruth Iteu Ayoku from Council and its Committees is in itself discriminatory, unfair and unlawful.
He observes that the university management blocked her from going to the university council over a petition by some staff but allowed Thomas Tayebwa and Bruce Balaba Kabaasa whose nomination was challenged by staff.
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Ssemakadde advises that the staff associations are part of the systems that ensure checks and balances and must not be gagged by the managers.