Ugandan employers face a three year jail term or a penalty of up to 10 million Shillings, if they are found paying their workers, anything that falls below the minimum wage. The sentences were approved in a new law, the Minimum Wages Bill, 2015, which was passed by Parliament last evening.
The bill also sets a fine of 480,000 Shillings and a jail term of 12 months or both on conviction of any person who obstructs an authorized officer from carrying out his or her duty. The bill was moved by Worker’s MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara, to repeal the Minimum Wages Advisory Board Act which doesn’t provide for an employee-employer led, and a sectoral based minimum wage determination.
Under the provisions of the new law, various sectors will help the minister to set minimum wages every year. It provides for the establishment of a Minimum Wages Advisory Board, appointed by the Minister of Labour in consultation with the Public Service Commission and approved by Cabinet.
The board will comprise representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Finance, National Planning Authority, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organisation of Trade Unions, the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions and any other umbrella trade Union that may be registered under the Labour Unions Act, and non-unionized workers.
However, the mover of the bill; Rwakajara was opposed to the inclusion of non-unionized workers on the board.
The Gender committee noted in its report that setting a minimum wage could reduce poverty boost higher spending power of Ugandans and reduce corruption.
National Persons with Disabilities MP Safia Nalule Juuko says the Bill is timely for improving working conditions for Ugandans But West Budama County North MP, Richard Okoth Othieno dismissed the Bill as misdirected. He said a minimum wage will worsen the unemployment problem with more people most likely to lose jobs.