After years of intense struggle, the Ugandan Nurses Organisation has been approved as the rightful representative for nurses in Uganda. The Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development has provided the nurses organisation with a code for deduction of membership fees directly over the members’ payslips. Revenue from membership fees are the organisation’s single largest source of income.
For several years the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) has conducted an intense and time-demanding process to be recognized as the rightful representative for the nurses of Uganda. The Norwegian Nurses Organisation (NSF) has supported UNMU during this protracted process – with technical and strategic advice as well as financial support to run a member-based organisation without revenue.
NSF’s support is part of a larger “project package” in Southeastern Africa – with much appreciated financial support from Norad. NSF supports nurses’ organisations in several African countries where the over-arching goal is the same: to become strong, independent and sustainable organisations that can speak out on behalf of members and work for a qualitative improvement of health care services.
Pictured below is an excerpt from the Ministry’s website showing that UNMU is now receiving payment of membership fees. Nationwide implementation of the so-called “check-off” system is time-consuming. Uganda has decentralized the responsibility for health care budgets to district level. As a result UNMU must travel to each and every district to present membership lists to employers, consult with their HR and financial officers and agree on implementation.
Finance Dept. website showing that the check-off system is working.
Opposition against giving the nurses access to the check-off system has been strong – especially from other trade unions that are losing a significant number of nurse members to UNMU – and through this also losing revenue. UNMU has also struggled against a cumbersome bureaucracy, interminable delays and a fair share of political intrigue.
The first payments to UNMU arrived in their account in March this year: all in all Ugandan Shillings 800.000 which is about USD 280. This payment is from nurse members at one hospital. Four additional hospitals are registered and UNMU is working on gradually increasing that number. In comparison, we can mention the nurses’ organisation in Zambia (ZUNO) that NSF also has supported. ZUNO experienced exactly what has happened in Uganda, with a cumbersome bureaucracy, interminable delays and a fair share of political intrigue. This was however some years ago. Today ZUNO is financially sustainable. UNMU aims at increasing its revenue over time, possibly even exceeding levels in Zambia seeing as Uganda has more nurses.
NSF’s role has been to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with UNMU, an act that government offices and political leaders have noticed. NSF has also helped out with strategic and practical advice, been a collaborating partner for and mentor of leadership on a wide range of issues. NSF has also contributed financially in a time where the organisation was without revenue.
The road ahead is still challenging. UNMU must travel the width and breadth of Uganda, to each and every place of employment for nurse members, to meet with officials and agree on implementation of check-off. More often than not there is a need for several meetings in each district before agreement is reached. UNMU is committed to carrying out this exercise. NSF gives its wholehearted support to UNMU and has continuous dialogue on how future revenue can be wisely used to support its members and to lobby government to give higher priority to quality health care.
NSF congratulates UNMU in this breakthrough!
Text and picture: Michael P. Vitols
14 April 2015