LABOR DAY; CSOs Echo Concerns Of Ugandan Workers Rights

By Our Reporter

KAMPALA, Uganda [SHIFT MEDIA] Every May 1 the world marks International Labor Day, call it workers day. This year’s annual celebration will be held in Namutumba district in eastern Uganda.

At the backdrop of these celebrations, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working on labour rights, trade, investment, land, health and development related issues, have echoed their concerns regarding what they described as an increase in labour rights abuses experienced especially by vulnerable groups like women, youth and people with disabilities.

The CSOs echoed their concerns during a joint presser organised by the Southern Eastern Africa Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda at their offices in Kampala on Sunday.

Other CSOs championing this cause included: FIDA Uganda, Voices for Labour, National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Actionaid International Uganda, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda, among others.

Robinah Kagoye (L), Peninah Mbabazi 2nd left) and Herbert Kafeero during the press conference

Herbert Kafeero the SEATINI Uganda Program and Communications Manager observed that there still exists glaring gaps in labour rights policies and the administration of the existing laws which has contributed to the rampant casualization of labour, fissured employment relationships, poor and precarious working terms and conditions.

“We have labour laws in place, but we still experience the lack of adequate maternity protection, unfair dismissals, low wages, inadequate occupational safety and health and insufficient social protection,” he said.

NOTU Chairman General Usher Wilson Owere noted with concern the fact that some civil servants like nurses and teachers have spent three months without salaries despite the Finance Ministry announcing release of funds to districts.

Owere also stressed the urgent need to create an independent ministry for Labour, devoid from the ‘Katogo’ mixed cockatiel evident at the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development.

“The reason workers issues can’t effectively be addressed, such as the issue of minimum wage is due to lack of an independent ministry for Labour. We can have the ministry for Labor, Public Service and Social Security as one Ministry,” advised Owere. He said the demand for workers minimum wage was far from over. He described as unfortunate the fact that for five years now,the industrial court has not sat because it lacks qouram to seat.

Ms Robinah Kagoye the Executive Director Voices for Labour noted with concern the continued failure by government to have a minimum wage in place. “Ugandan workers are consumers, and they pay taxis, so they deserve better dignified working conditions,” she said. Kagoye said many Ugandans are dying silently in many commercialized farms, especially flower farms. ” I am following a case of workers in a certain flower farm who have worked for over 30years without any contract. Majority have fired, with no compensation and any form of social security. What do you expect a person aged 60+ to do after such expulsion,” she said.

Kagoye urged government to ensure the Industrial Court is working. She said the issue of saying investors would run away from Uganda if minimum wage is in place is outplaced. “Most of Ugandans are employed in the informal sector, with over 73% self employed. Now what percentage of workers employed by the investors are we fearing to be affected here? Mused Kagoye.

In commemoration of this year’s International Labour Day Defenders, UCCA and Voices For Labour under the theme ‘‘State of Labour Rights in Uganda: Pursuing the Right to Livelihood and Dignity for All Workers in Uganda’’.

Joseph Byamungi, an official from the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability said what is important is to create jobs for Ugandans.

Peninah Mbabazi, the Manager Trade, Investment, and Thematic Areas read out a number of recommendations that government should immediately address to curb on vast abuse of labor laws by unscrupulous employees in Uganda. Some of the recommendations include reviewing and amending the Employment Act 2006, review of the Investment Code Act of 2019, the Compensation Act, as well as expedition of the ratification of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) convention.

Shift Media News

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