30% of employers observe labour laws
By Edris Kiggundu &
A country assessment report on the social, economic and
political environment has decried the poor working conditions
that still obtain in private and public sectors, calling
upon government to address the situation.
So grim is the picture, according to the voluminous 591-page
report prepared by the Uganda African Peer Review Mechanism
Commission, that roughly only one out of three firms (33%)
in Uganda comply with labour and employment related laws
A 22-member Uganda commission that compiled this report
was supposed to ascertain whether Uganda conforms to the
agreed political, economic and governance values as part
of a self-monitoring mechanism for good governance under
the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
It was chaired by Prof. Elisha Semakula and its members
were drawn from various interest groups.
In June, at a summit of the African Union in Ghana, President
Museveni is expected to present his country’s assessment
report. Then a team of independent African peer reviewers
led by Prof. Aedeji Adebayo will come here to verify the
According to this voluminous report, many labourers earn
meagre wages, others endure inhumane conditions while some
are dismissed without justifiable reasons, notes the report.
This has been aggravated by government’s failure to
set a minimum wage, it adds.
“The minimum wage of Shs 6,000 per month fixed in
1984 is still in force. The minimum wages board recommended
Shs 70,000 per month in the 1990s but this was reduced to
Shs 58,000 per month. The new minimum wage was approved
by Cabinet but has not been announced or put in place.”
The worst hit workers are those employed in the informal
sector, where a majority of employers hardly know anything
about labour laws.
There are cases of worker discrimination based on gender,
the report notes, and many are not compensated in cases
of injury at the workplace.
Part of the reason for the deteriorating labour conditions
in the country, says the report, is the tremendous economic
development that has seen an influx of foreign firms, many
of which are bent on earning at all costs, even at the expense
The report further noted labour unions in Uganda, which
ideally are supposed to defend, protect and promote the
rights of workers, have instead been influenced by employers,
politicians and individuals in government institutions.
In Uganda, the Industrial Court is mandated to arbitrate
in labour disputes but the report says it has not been very
active due to inadequacy of judges and resources.
Also, each district is supposed to have a Labour Officer
to settle labour disputes but investigators discovered that
only 30 out of 81 districts had such officers.
The team also discovered that among the three arms of government,
the public perceived the judiciary to be the most independent,
while not surprisingly, the legislature is believed to be
the least independent.
Perhaps a contributing factor could be the judiciary’s
action last year to go on an unprecedented strike after
security personnel invaded the High Court premises to re-arrest
Yet even before this, the judiciary’s image as an
independent body had been entrenched by a number of rulings
that were perceived to be unfavourable to government.
As for the legislature, a number of people interviewed
believed it was more of a rubber-stamping institution for
The report cites the Shs 5 million given to some MPs during
the constitution amendment process in the Seventh Parliament,
pointing out that many saw it as a bribe to support the
removal of presidential term limits from the constitution.
“Whereas the NRM organization insisted that these
funds were lawfully obtained, the timing raised controversies
within and outside Parliament, with many people relating
it to political corruption,” the report says.
The report also faults Parliament for amending the constitution
to make it virtually impossible for the electorate to recall
MPs under the multiparty system.
On economic governance and management, the report credits
government for liberalising the financial sector and restructuring
the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) that, it says, has improved
It however, urges government to broaden its tax base and
reconstruct the war-ravaged northern Uganda.
On socio-economic development, the panel found “widespread
perception that the rapid multiplication of districts has
bloated public service expenditure, resulting in less resources
being available for social and economic services.”
Overall, the report gives a clean bill of health on the
state of the country’s economy, amplifying the political,
economic and social achievements registered over the last
22 years while delving little into policy failures and misadventures
of the NRM government.