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Trade Unionists Set Ultimatum for Gov’t to Withdraw Pension Bill

Peter Werike, the Secretary General of National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) speaking on Thursday

The body that brings together trade unions in Uganda has vowed to take action if the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija does not withdraw the proposed Pension Liberalization Bill.

Peter Werike, the Secretary General of National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) lashed out at Kasaija accusing him of attempting to steal workers money, urging government to honor the ultimatum given by the union.

The workers union has written to the Finance Minister giving him a 90 day ultimatum u to November 1 to have rescinded the proposed law, failure of which they threaten to strike.

An infuriated Werike was speaking on Thursday during a consultative meeting by the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development on a draft framework of the apprenticeship program that seeks to foster skills training to workers.

“There are people disturbing workers’ money in NSSF [National Social Security Fund] talking about capital markets, economy. Where in the world have you ever seen workers’ money financing the economy of the country? Where?” Werike said at the event held at Imperial Royale Hotel.

The Pension Sector Liberalization Bill, tabled in April 2011 seeks to allow for portability, so that any employee unhappy with NSSF’s services could move all their savings to another pension fund.  This would give lee way for other pension fund managers to compete in the collection of the mandatory pension funds.

But trade unions insist this exposes their savings to uncertainties.

The government also wanted to allow pension funds to compete for the 15 per cent mandatory savings, but this was rejected by trade unions

“We are asking Hon. Kasaija [Finance Minister] to withdraw that Bill. And we have given an ultimatum of November 1, you will see us on the street, if you are still on the story of breaking workers money in pieces,” he added.

He said that under the proposed law, safety of the workers’ pension would not be guaranteed and would risk being swindled by either government or financial institutions citing the recent demise of Crane Bank.

“Currently, that NSSF money [about Ush 7.6 trillion] is the one running this country. Ush 2 trillion is in the treasury bonds while another Ush 3 trillion is seated in the commercial banks which are being lent to people. Is that not good enough?” Werike said.

He asked why government wouldn’t begin with the approximately Ush 365 billion in public sector pension money.

“You want to try us; you will see us on the streets. This is not a joke. You want to give this money to these people who are packing every day,” he further said, cautioning the Finance Minister to ‘stop playing tricks’ and do his job.

He said that the union has notified Minister Kasaija on their intended strike.

“If he [Kasaija] doesn’t understand the economics he studied, let him leave and we get a Minister who understands economics. But we are not going to allow someone to tell us that NSSF money will be used to trade.”

NSSF collects 15% in mandatory pension savings from Ugandan workers and their employers.

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