NOTU boss Owere new push for delayed minimum wage bill in Uganda

Usher Wilson Owere
Chairman General of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU), Usher Wilson Owere.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | President Yoweri Museveni has maintained his stand on prioritizing better payment of civil servants in science-related fields as workers push for the harmonization of salaries across the board and enactment of a minimum wage.

President Museveni was speaking during the International Labour Day celebrations held at Kololo ceremonial grounds on Sunday 1, May 2022 afternoon. Mr Museveni noted that although civil servants in other fields would get enhanced salaries, the government decided to start with scientists.

Mr Museveni was responding to calls from Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairperson of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) for better pay for workers in Arts and humanities, saying that they are equally important.

In his response, Mr Museveni noted that although there is a claim of equity, the reality is that scientists are more important to the nation now and need special treatment.

Although Mr Owere presented the grievances of post-primary science teachers who declared industrial action recently because of being left out of the salary enhancement for scientists, President Museveni did not respond to the matter.

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Without a response from the president, the union of science teachers that recently broke away from the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) is left with no other option other than withdraw their labour when learners return to school for the second term on May 9, this year.

Earlier on, Mr Owere had also tasked the government to re-introduce the minimum wage bill to ensure that employers stop exploiting lower-level workers. The tenth Parliament passed the bill but the president declined to sign it and returned it to the house with comments.

Mr Owere, who asked what could have happened to the bill, petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, who attended the event, to include the bill on the order paper.

Dr Silver Mugisha, the Managing Director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) who is also the chairperson of the Federation of Uganda Employers also appealed to the government to take into account the concerns of employers while considering the minimum wage and related issues.

In his statement about the commemoration of Labor Day, Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), noted that there might be no reason for workers in Uganda to celebrate Labor Day given the enormous problems they are facing today.

“Prices of essential commodities and fuel have continued to rise majorly due to the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 stimulus loan from IMF in addition to the unfair tax regime. Consequently, many workers… as well Ugandan employed in the informal sector cannot afford some of the essentials of living,” Mpuuga’s statement read in part.

Mr Mpuuga also decried the unprecedented youth unemployment, which he blamed for the trafficking of Uganda workers (youths) to Middle Eastern countries. Commenting on the rising commodity prices that are affecting the little income for the workers, President Museveni noted that workers should not worry but brace for the situation and be positive by looking for local alternatives.

Jokingly, the President stated that if wheat prices shoot up, then locals could switch from eating bread to the homegrown cassava as the economy stabilizes from international markets shocks and the effects of COVID-19.

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In the same development, President Museveni noted that the newly launched Parish Development Model has the potential of solving unemployment in Uganda if well implemented.  According to his calculations, with the said model the agriculture sector will create up to 50 million jobs.

He also used the Labour Day address to advise that funds under the Parish development model should be reserved for small farmers with four acres of land and below.

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi also noted that her ministry has been diagnosing the problems in the booming external recruitment of migrant workers in a bid to streamline the business, adding that workers in that sector are not mistreated as it has been previously.

Amongi noted that they have already made some reforms, which they think will bring the sector to order.