Minister Betty Amongi.
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Some foreign investors in the country say they are ignorant of labor laws of Uganda and hence set exploitative regulations to govern their employees.
This was revealed by the Minister for Gender, Labor and Social Development, Betty Amongi while addressing the press at the Uganda Media Center.
The minister acknowledges reports of employees being assaulted, overworked and operating without proper protective gear, saying that from investigations, the investors are ignorant of laws that govern workers in Uganda.
She says several factories owned by foreigners subject workers to long working hours without any allowances, deny workers protective gear and deny them leave on public holidays and yet don’t compensate them.
Amongi said during her inspection of the factories, she discussed labor laws with management of the factories and they said they didn’t know about the laws.
The Employment Act of 2006, Workers Compensation Act Cap 225 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2006 coupled with International labor laws to which Uganda is a signatory are the major labor laws in the country.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides for inspection of work places to ensure that the places are operating legally and confirming to the different laws regarding hours of work, protection of workers and payment of salaries.
However, the minister while on a visit to factories in Namanve visited Sunbelt Industries and one of the Chinese nationals there attempted to deny her access to some sections of the factory saying were out of bound to non-staff.
The minister pressed and entered, only to find in one of the rooms employees packed beyond capacity, making shoes. Several broke down upon sighting her and narrated their ordeal which includes working for long hours without a break and no food.
She says abuse of workers should not be tolerated in the country and committed that the ministry would up its inspections to monitor work places to ensure compliance with labor laws of the land. She says her office is also working on a minimum wage law which has often been advocated for to protect workers from underpayment. She says in several factories, workers are paid 7,000 Shillings per day, no transport and no meals.
One of the Chinese at the factory was arrested for obstructing a search and the factory closed and given three days to improve on the working environment.
Alex Asiimwe, the head of Labor Industrial Relations and Productivity urged Ugandans to report any abuse of a worker by their employers through labor officers based at the district.
He says the ministry is working on an online system to enable workers file reports and seek help in a more timely manner. On the same platform, there shall be the different labor laws as part of the ministry’s effort to sensitize the workers and make them known to the workers.
Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairperson National Organisation of Trade Union says he is glad that the Minister is looking keenly at factory owners who have been reported often for abusing their employees.
He says government should enhance its enforcement of labor laws and ensure compliance to the laws by both foreign and local investors.
He noted that some foreign investors act with impunity because they have people who protect them.
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