Ugandan Doctors Could Soon Join MPs in Protesting Too Much Pay

It is now three years since hundreds of Canadian doctors staged a prolonged protest against being paid too well. At the time, a general physician working for the government in Canada was earning the equivalent of $260,924 a year.

The Canadian doctors vowed not to accept any more “indecent” pay. That is what they called their nice salaries – indecent – saying it was not fair to have more money thrown at them when patients were not enjoying enough facilities from the government.

In Uganda, where that annual non-specialist Canadian doctor’s pay equals one billion of our shillings, we thought those North American doctors were like spoilt children finally beginning to feel embarrassed by their pampering government.

But now we are on the verge of experiencing a similar protest in our own country. Unless a miracle makes Covid-19 disappear, Ugandan doctors might soon stage a strike over too much money being shoved at them by desperate patients’ families.

Since a good number of Uganda-born doctors are working in Canada, they can offer some consultative guidance to their compatriots on how to resist being overpaid. The Covid-19 patients’ families should indeed be helped to avoid selling all they have to pay for treatment that ordinarily would cost a small fraction of what they are laying now.

Fine, the Canadians beat us to that type of protest in March 2018. But we also beat most of the rest of the world to another unlikely industrial action by a group of workers 25 years ago. That was when our national legislators – yes, our members of parliament – went on strike over pay. Sadly, the “ring leader” of that “honourable” strike died in the current Covid-19 lockdown and so, the new 529 Ugandan MPs now benefiting from his activism haven’t had the chance to mourn him properly. He was a Kenyan-Ugandan called Aggrey Awori.

Together with a few other fiery legislators of Uganda’s Sixth Parliament, Awori kicked up such a protest that the revolutionary leaders of the ruling National Resistance Movement who had turned democratic around that time with a brand-new constitution caved in and gave the MPs a decent package. Awori’s biological brother, former Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori, must have smiled at another feather in the family’s cap.

But now, a section of Ugandan MPs want to set another record: the opposite of what the predecessors did a quarter of a century ago. They too are protesting but this time, like the Canadian medics, over excessive pay.