UGANDA, alongside other countries, marked the Labour Day yesterday. The day is an annual event to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Uganda first celebrated Labour Day in 1963 and has continued to mark the day every year.
Uganda is facing many labour challenges, including unemployment. According to the Gender and Labour ministry statistics, the overall unemployment rates in Uganda is about 3.5%, but much higher in the urban areas where it is at about 12%. In addition, there is problem of underemployment estimated to be at 17%.
It is, therefore, good that Government has priotised job creation, particularly for the youth. Unemployment needs to be tackled aggressively as it has the potential to cause social unrest and political instability.
Government also needs to pay more attention to the working conditions of the workers. A local human rights group, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, recently issued a report on the state of labour rights in Uganda. The report raised a number of pertinent issues.
The issues range from poor funding for the directorate of labour; absence of a minimum wage; many employersâ€™ refusing to recognise and negotiate with trade unions; rising use of casual labour to failure by many employers to meet occupational safety and health standards.
It appears the Government has not been forthright in tackling some of these labour rights issues, fearing that this would impact negatively on investments and development.
For example, the Government has over the years resisted pressure from the workers to set a minimum wage and to force the employers to recognise right of workers to form or join trade unions.
However, failure to enforce such labour rights actually affects the productivity of the labour force and hinders development. Observance of rights of workers also benefits the employers and the country through increased productivity.
Observe the rights of labourers