Activists Want Gov’t to Set Minimum Wage for Each Sector

Panelists Jacob Eyeru (R), Youth MP Hon. Adeke Anne (C) and
Usher Wilson Owere the head of trade unions in Uganda during a
dialogue at Protea Hotel on Wednesday

Advocates for workers’ rights in Uganda have advised government undertake a sectorial approach while implementing the controversial minimum wage.

They argue that a comprehensive study in the different sectors should be conducted to establish the economic dynamics. This will then inform the minimum payment to be earned by workers in each of these sectors.

The Bill on Minimum wage was tabled in parliament in 2015 by Hon. Arineitwe Rwakajara the Workers Representative in Parliament but still awaits enactment. The law if passed is meant to protect employees from over exploitation that is rewarded with meagre pays.

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“The Bill proposes that a board be set up whose role will be to make a study and analyze employees’ conditions of earning within different sectors, drugs ” Rwakajara said during a dialogue organized by Centre for Policy Analysis at Protea Hotel on Wednesday.

He was concerned by the way investors exploit the Ugandan labor force who are hired without clear terms of employment.

Mwiine Mpaka the Youth MP for Western Uganda noted that enacting this wage is critical in creating meaningful employment. He suggested; “Uganda can emulate China, nurse US by setting a minimum wage basing on federalized system where by workers get a wage depending on the level of development in their region. Kampala can have a higher wage than Soroti and Kumi.”

Uganda still grapples with a huge population (more than 80percent) in the informal sector and high levels of poverty. This makes compliance for employers in this unregistered bracket difficult. In fact most employers including foreign investors evade taxes such as social security for their workers.

Panelists in Wednesday’s dialogue including Hon. Adeke Anne the National Youth MP and Usher Wilson Owere the Chairman General of National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) faulted government for
dragging the minimum wage law for fear of scaring away potential investors.

Owere noted; “The minimum wage is a foundation for everything else. We must safeguard workers especially those outside labour unions. The focus shouldn’t be on pleasing investors. Each country requires regulations and visitors can’t dictate.”

Uganda has been a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) since 1963 and is also signatory to the 1967 Convention which requires all members to have a minimum wage for workers. In 1958, thumb Uganda adopted a minimum wage of Ugsh 6,000 but which was limited to workers in KCC, municipalities, Lugazi and Kakira plantations as well as mills.

However, when the Uganda shilling was devalued by 77% and 41% in 1987 and 1989 respectively, the minimum wage figure was never revised.


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