UCU restores longer, better staff contracts after Covid-19 lockdown

By Yasiri J. Kasango
Long-term and improved employment contracts are becoming more common at Uganda Christian University (UCU). The University Council resolved to offer staff long-term contracts at a meeting it held last year. The action benefits 344 employees, who are full-time staff members at the UCU Main, Kampala, School of Dentistry and Medicine, campuses.

While short contracts for employees hired to work 40-hour weeks have been commonplace for at least a decade at UCU, for the last two years, employment has been more tentative. UCU staff have been operating on short contracts, with some running for three months. The shortened employment agreements and in some cases job curtailments were more common with the disruptive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the institutions of learning globally.

Staff members attending the annual thanksgiving.
Staff members attending the annual thanksgiving.

In March 2020, Uganda closed all schools, including higher institutions of learning. Schools were only opened for in-person learning for final-year learners seven months later. It was not until March 2021 that schools were opened for in-person learning, only to be closed again three months later, due to the emergence of the second wave of Covid-19 in Uganda.

The lockdown on academic institutions affected UCU since students who are the source of revenue were not learning. During the university’s end-of-year thanksgiving ceremony held on December 17, Vice-Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi announced that the University Council had passed a resolution to give the university staff long-term and better contracts.

In a bid to attract and retain more competent staff, the university has also restored most of the other benefits, including medical, that the staff were entitled to before Covid-19 struck.

The contracts awarded are in three categories, ranging from two to five years. The University Council also has approved the issuance of staff performance-based contracts with annual financial reward incentives.

The Director of Human Resource, Florence Nakiyingi, confirmed the changes, saying senior teaching staff were given a contract ranging from four to five years, while the lower cadres received three years. During thanksgiving, Mushengyezi commended staff for what he called “resilience, devotion, and determination” during the pandemic.

The UCU staff have welcomed the restoration of long-term contracts.

“We are grateful to God because we know that after the storm, some people were unable to get back to their work; but we did, and have better contracts,” said Ruth Manzede, the admissions assistant.

The long-term contracts will help the staff create better long-term plans for themselves and their families and enhance loyalty to the institution.

“The new contracts can enable a manager or anyone to plan effectively for the office in the period they have been given to serve,” said Walter Washika, the Financial Aid Manager.

Harriet Asiimwe Iraguha, a staff member, gives glory to God that she has a job. She said the pandemic has led to many job losses and pay cuts.

“I’m not any better than those that have not received contracts or those who were told to wait a little longer,” she said. “I give glory to God that I have a job.”