Tuesday March 18 2014

Protect all workers from exploitation

By Simon J. Mone

Employees have often complained about difficult conditions at their work places such as delayed salaries, unfair termination, working for prolonged hours. While some employers are fair, others exploit workers, leading to cases of workers’ unrest and strikes.

Recently, Amnesty International published a report about poor working conditions that migrant workers in the Qatar construction sector are subjected to. In 2013 alone, more than 1,000 labourers are said to have been admitted to various hospitals after falling from heights during work on construction projects, 185 have died and a significant number disabled as a result.

Such occupational hazards are common in Uganda as well. A number of workers have gone on strike over what they call unbearable working conditions. Workers are hired without proper contracts and because of the pressure to earn a livelihood; many work under difficult conditions.

Companies invest a lot of money in equipment, software and capacity building of its employees, so it is vital to consider the welfare of the human resources they employ to operate these equipment. There needs to be a favourable working environment for safety and welfare of workers. Being the most important component of a company’s resources, employees require reasonable comfort to produce results for their employers.

Therefore, companies should explore how to get the best output from its human resources instead of exploiting them with a selfish objective of only making huge profits. Companies should be encouraged to put in place measures that encourage a workable health and safety organisation culture that treats all workers equally and fairly irrespective of their origin or nationality. They should not discriminate against workers based on ethnicity, gender or physical state, religion and political affiliation.

More important is the need to emphasise the protection and respect of workers’ dignity throughout their contractual duration. We should build a culture that discourages forced labour but create, encourage and maintain safe and healthy working conditions. Remittance of workers’ wages should also be done in a timely manner.

Companies should desist from retaliation against workers who push for and exercise rights derived from legal provisions in the country.