By Henry Sekanjako & Andrew Masinde
KAMPALA - Government has embarked on processes for the establishment of a minimum wage for employees ahead of the July 2015 deadline.
In June 2014, Uganda committed itself to setting up a minimum wage, when government told the international labor organization (ILO) conference in Geneva Switzerland that by July 2015, the country would have its minimum wage set.
A minimum wage is the lowest wage permitted by law or by a special agreement.
Addressing a stakeholders meeting on minimum wage at Sheraton Hotel Kampala, the commissioner labor in the ministry of gender, labor and social development said the ministry is to identify a team of nine people that will form a wage board to study minimum wage.
“The members are to be selected from the Federation of Uganda Employers, the workers union and members from government,” said Kamya Magulu.
“The selected names will be forwarded to cabinet for approval and thereafter the board will start its work and later report back to cabinet.”
The assistant commissioner in the labor ministry, Patrick Okello, said: “We feel this committee will come out with good findings that will guide the next steps for constituting the minimum wage”.
However the officials warned that minimum wage lobbyists needed to be mindful of the fact that Uganda is still facing a problem of unemployment, which is likely to increase with the establishment of a minimum wage.
Speaking during the meeting organised by Platform for Labor Action, different stakeholders advised that there was need to categorise areas such as hotels, house management, among other industries where workers are underpaid and the institution of a minimum wage a matter of urgency.
“We should not generalise this issue of minimum wage. Some people like managers are getting enough money. We should categorise the areas where we think minimum wage should cover,” said Emmanuel Baingana, the labor advisor for National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU).
Some stakeholders also said there is no need for parliament to come up with a law on minimum wage, arguing that the current provisions on minimum wage are sufficient and only needed amendment.
“This bill on minimum wage is so unprofessional, it must be removed. It is just going to kill the whole idea on minimum wage where government will prolong the establishment of minimum wage of certificate of financial implication. We should just amend the existing provision,” said Isaac Munabi, an employer.
According to the Constitution of Uganda, the current minimum wage which was set 30 years ago in 1984 is sh6,000 per month, and it has remained that way despite change in economic conditions over the past three decades.
In 1995, a minimum wage advisory board was constituted to review the minimum wage but 19 years later, its recommendations including a sh65,000 minimum wage, have not been implemented by government yet.
In East Africa Uganda is one of the countries which has denounced the need for minimum wage. Recently Kenya announced a 14% increase in minimum wage whereas Tanzania’s minimum wages were reviewed in July 2013.