Jobs and Career
Weak laws fuel wrongful terminations
Posted Friday, February 8 2013 at 02:00
Many times, workers have no easy access to justice especially because of the few labour officers who serve in the country.
Despite the enactment of laws, workplaces have continued to experience violations and unlawful sacking of workers, a move said to be resulting from lack of a will to cater for the welfare of people in the working age.
While the Employment Act, 2006 sets the minimum standards to be met by employers before, during after employment, many workers end up crying foul as a result of the loopholes in the law, which their masters base on for their escape. Lawyers and activists say the laws are good but enforcement is not in place due to lack of government institutions to implement as well as ignorance on the provisions of the law.
Diana Prida, an advocate, says aggrieved workers upon termination cannot access justice because of lack of enforcement institutions. “The laws are in place but the implementing institutions are not. The industrial court is ineffective,’’ Prida laments.
“The current law provides that workers are supposed to file their complaints to the labour officers who are not at every district, and also have no powers to execute their own orders,” she further observes adding that the country with over 100 districts has only 45 labour officers as of 2011 who are too few to handle the labour disputes that arise.
Ms Lydia Bwiite, a Legal Assistant with Platform for Labour Action (PLA), an advocacy body for the rights and issues facing marginalised workers, says: “Because the laws do not provide for stringent punishments and or penalties, employers can fire at will but if the mechanisms were in place, such instances would be minimal.”
According to Ms Bwiite, while employers and their workers misinterpret the laws on compensation of workers, the former use the loopholes in the laws to frustrate the people they are managing. “There are only a few employers who adhere because they have a name to protect. These resolve matters easily but many employers operate with impunity and this is worsened by high rates of poverty and unemployment, which also provide opportunity for more exploitation of workers,” says Ms Bwiite.
Lilliane Keene Mugerwa, the executive director of PLA says due to the lack of the mechanisms to resolve the rampant labour disputes, her organisation has been involved in alternative dispute resolution.
“We assist workers mostly from the informal sector who earn small amounts of money like Shs300,000 and below but we only engage in negotiations to push the employers to pay their workers,” says Mugerwa.
She explains that PLA also conducts outreach sessions with the aim of sensitising the public about labour laws and the services offered which include mediations and free legal aid services among others.
“Through our activities, we are advocating for operational mechanisms to save the entire country from the ever-increasing violation of the rights of workers through beating, illegal termination of services and sexual harassment among others,” says Mugerwa, appealing to rights bodies and organisations to join the advocacy forum to demand for the implementation of laws and establishment of structures for labour dispute resolutions.
Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairman General of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu), says there is serious violation of workers in all districts because of the government’s failure to take keen interest in strengthening labour administration in the country.
“The labour office was decentralised to the district under the Chief Administration Officers (CAO) who is an employer. That is wrong and we want the labour officer to be reporting back to the center and any other office,” says Mr Owere demanding for appointment of labour officers at all districts.