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Workers demand government to make them top priority

By Ronald Mugabe

Added 4th May 2016 12:34 PM

While speaking to The New Vision, the Chairman General of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Wilson Owere expressed that government should have the political will to ensure that workers all around the nation are put at the forefront of the implementation of development programmes.

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The Chairman General, National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Usher Wilson Owere. Photo/ Shamim Saad.

While speaking to The New Vision, the Chairman General of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Wilson Owere expressed that government should have the political will to ensure that workers all around the nation are put at the forefront of the implementation of development programmes.

After recently celebrating the International Labour Day, workers in Uganda have expressed their desires to be put at the forefront while implementing government programmes if the nation is to realise any substantial economic growth and development.

While speaking to The New Vision, the Chairman General of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Wilson Owere expressed that government should have the political will to ensure that workers all around the nation are put at the forefront of the implementation of development programmes.

“It is pertinent for our leaders in government to put us workers as top priority if fast development is to be realised. When workers are motivated, they help the nation develop,” Owere stated.

“When government is planning on projects like roads, the officials responsible should put the human resource factor as a key component for the success of such projects. As it stands now, workers are put as secondary factors and that is why some projects stagnate,” he added.

To explain why this is a vital consideration, Owere stated that according to the International Labour Organisation setting, governments, employers and workers work as a tripartite arrangement.

“This arrangement indicates that workers are a very important component in building a country. Therefore, the three must work together tirelessly for economic development to happen,” he emphasized.

Dr. Samuel Lyomoki, one of the Workers' Represantives in parliament also echoes Owere’s position, emphasizing that labour should be recognised more. “We should recognize labour because without doing so, we cannot develop as desired. Research has shown that countries that recognize labour are more advanced than those that don’t,’ he stressed.

“Our economies are not competitive globally because we have poor quality products arising from a poorly motivated workforce with low productivity. This compounds the situation by even destroying the domestic market because of a demoralized labour force,” he added.

Dr. Lyomoki however states that to curb this, a paradigm shift should be made by government. “We have for long been struggling with corruption; because we have workers in government positions who see these as jobs to appease their own appetite rather than as a calling for service to the people. If the president is to live worthy to his mantle to lead this country to development, he should start appointing people who are there to serve and not to enrich themselves,” he expressed.

 r amuel yomoki Dr. Samuel Lyomoki

 
“On our side as workers, we should be motivated to serve diligently. If the labour movement and leaders are to stand the test of time, we should avoid activism focused on personal survival but service. For example as workers’ leaders, we can lead the workers to stop demanding for salary increases for the sake of having better incomes but for the sake of offering better services to those we are responsible to serve,” he added.

Hon. Arinaitwe Rwakajara, also a Workers’ Representative in parliament stressed that for a long time, the human resource factor to protect labourers in Uganda has been ignored while giving contracts to foreign companies to carry out government projects.

“Government has been giving out contracts to foreigners without emphasizing issues concerning labour. It is for this reason that we have seen most contractors exploit our labourers by giving them low payments and repatriating a huge sum of their profits to their respective countries. As a country we lose a lot because our workers can’t develop under such conditions even when they do much to offer labour on such big projects,” Rwakajara explained.

On issues concerning the minimum wage, Owere revealed that the process of advocating for it has reached advanced stages. “We started by creating awareness among workers, approached government and employers and have also met the president who also agreed that there is need for a minimum wage,” he said.

He added that government has put in place a minimum wage board which has already written a preliminary report to the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development.

Hon. Rwakajara; who moved a private member’s bill on the same confirmed Owere’s revelation. He said that the issue is now before the Committee of Gender, Labour and Social Development. “The Speaker has requested that the work on the Minimum Wage Bill be finalized and presented for a second hearing,” he said.

“Chances are high that we are going to pass it before this term of the 9th Parliament ends.  If we fail to pass it in this term, I am sure it will be passed in the early days of the next term. The good thing is that I have returned and will be part of the next parliament. Since it is a private member’s bill, I will continue to pursue it,” he added.


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