Tuesday August 21 2012

Women to expose bad employers

Women protest against poor working conditions recently.

Women protest against poor working conditions recently. Women unionists in the country are accusing their employers, especially those in private sector, of increasingly infringing on the rights of expectant women workers. PHOTO BY AFP 



Women unionists have resolved to expose employers who fail to uphold maternity rights for female workers as they launch a campaign to condemn the practice.

Addressing a press conference in Kampala yesterday, the unionists, under their organisation, National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), said employers, especially those in private sector, are increasingly infringing on the rights of expectant female workers, and the few who comply, partially offer such rights.

“We are getting so concerned about this worrying trend in many companies and organisations which give fewer days of the mandatory maternity leave. This is unacceptable and we shall be force to expose such employers if they don’t change,” said Ms Agnes Atwooki, the chairperson NOTU.

“We even know some employers who terminate services of expectant mothers when they go on maternity leave. If this continues unchecked, time will come when women no longer enjoy their full right to maternity leave,” Ms Atwooki added.

According to the Employment Act 2006, an expectant female worker is entitled to 60 days of maternity leave while a male employee, whose wife is expecting, is entitled to five days of paternity leave.

The Woman MP for Sheema District, Ms Rosemary Nakikongoro, who is also a member of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (Uwopa), said women legislators will overwhelmingly support the unionists’ petition when it comes to the House.

“In fact, they (employers) don’t only deny them maternity rights but many female workers are also sexually harassed and this vice cuts across even in the government departments,” Ms Nyakikongoro said, adding, “This is something serious and we shall handle it with the utmost urgency it deserves.”

Government admits
Ms Rukia Nakadama , the state minister for Gender, admitted that the practice is on the increase and promised that government will first sensitise the employers before cracking the whip. “They need to be sensitised first about the law since some of them are foreigners. And if they become adamant we shall be forced as government to revoke their licenses.”

Ms Atwooki said they are going to launch a month-long campaign to awaken female workers and other stakeholders to ensure that they understand the need to fight for maternity rights of female workers.

“As part of our campaign, we have started sensitising female workers on their rights and this will climax with the handing over of a petition to the speaker of parliament. We want to highlight challenges that female employees go through at work places,” she said.

Available statistics indicate that women constitute 67 per cent of the 1.2 million workers who subscribe to trade unions in the country.