Workers MP Rwakajara moots fresh plans for enacting Minimum Wage Bill

MP Rwakajara secures leave of parliament to introduce Labour Export Bill
Workers MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Workers Representative in Parliament Arinaitwe Rwakajara is in plans to ensure the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015 is enacted into law.

Rwakajara’s reaction stems from President Yoweri Museveni’s rejection of the Bill in its entirety.

On 19th February 2019, Parliament passed the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015. The Bill, among other provisions, empowers the Minister of Labour to appoint a Minimum Wages Board to fix all minimum wages for various sectors and also mandates the minister to announce the minimum wages annually.

The Bill provides that employers will face a three-year jail term or a penalty of up to 10 million Shillings, for paying below the set minimum wage.

It also repeals the Minimum Wages Advisory Board Act, 1957 which does not provide for an employee-employer led, and a sectoral based minimum wage determination.

However, in a letter dated August 21 2019, President Museveni wrote to the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga stating why he declined to assent to the Bill.

The President noted among other reasons that the he was not assenting to the Bill after he received advice from the Attorney General that “there are no gaps in the Minimum Wages Advisory Board and Wages Council Act that the Bill seeks to cure.”

He also noted that cabinet is yet to make an informed decision after receiving a review from the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development on a report prepared by the Minimum Wages Advisory Board on the implications of fixing a minimum wage on Investment and the economy.

The Speaker, however noted that since the President rejected the entire Bill, unlike in instances where he highlights areas to be changed when he returns bills to Parliament, the clerk to Parliament should allocate time on the paper to the member responsible for the bill to bring it to the House so that parliament can take a decision on the entire Bill.

Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines a minimum wage as the minimum sum of money payable to a worker for work performed or services rendered within a given period to cover the minimum needs of the worker, his or her family, in light of national economic and social conditions.

Rwakajara says that he is mooting plans to bring the bill to the House and ensure that it is enacted.

Rwakajara castigates the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya for misguiding the President.

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Rwakajara says that it is unfortunate that the Attorney General and Mukwaya did not express their objections to the Bill when it was being scrutinized by the Committee on Gender and also by the whole house that later passed the Bill.

In addition, he argues that the Bill was subjected to public scrutiny because key stakeholders presented their views to the committee on gender or before the Bill was tabled in Parliament for its first reading.

The Minister Mukwaya had not responded to Rwakajara views by the time of filing this story.

He is now planning to consult workers and the leadership of National Organisation of Trade Unions-NOTU on the way forward with the main aim of ensuring that the minimum wage bill is enacted into law.

Last week, NOTU Chairperson, Usher Wilson Owere was quoted in media reports as saying that the President must heed to the directive of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to put in place the minimum wage. Owere noted that the directive was issued after NOTU took the government to the International Labour Experts Committee in 2017.

The 1995 Uganda Constitution provides that when the President returns a bill for the first time, parliament shall reconsider it and if passes again, the bill shall be presented to the president for assent.

However if the President returns the same bill twice, and it is passed for the third time by two-thirds of all legislators, the Bill becomes law without the assent of the President.