Ensure workers’ safety at workplaces
Posted Thursday, October 24 2013 at 01:00
Employee motivation is the key to increasing labour productivity and it is directly proportional to employee safety at work. Any astute observer can see that the Ugandan labour sector is in turmoil unless policy makers, employers and employees work together to avert this dangerous trend. Cases of employer-employee tension reported in the media are just a tip of the iceberg since other mistreated and injured employees are cowed into submission, summarily dismissed, or resign quietly to protest incessant mistreatment by their employers.
Deliberate mistreatment of subordinates by managers at the workplace is a major cause of employee disillusionment. Biased company policies may tacitly give leeway to arrogant senior managers to mistreat their subordinates with impunity. Disciplinary policies should mete out tough penalties for managers who deliberately intimidate and victimise employees. Occupational safety and health policies should also be meticulously designed to safeguard employees against all forms of injury in the course of their duties.
Human life is priceless and cannot be made up for, even by monetary compensations. Workers’ compensation is globally enshrined in labour laws and Uganda is no exception. The Uganda Workers’ Compensation Act 2006 and the Employment Act 2006 clearly cite situations under which an employee is to be compensated in case of injury. Thus, employees demand compensation not to punish their employers but to ensure justice and fairness.
Referring to Kasim Ssuuna’s case against Mukwano Industries, one writer erroneously claims in an article in one of the local dailies published on October 14, that ‘by taking the law into his own hands, Ssuuna threatens the viability of Mukwano Industries and puts hundreds more jobs at risk…’ It is spurious for him to insinuate that in essence, any employee protesting against mistreatment aims at ensuring the collapse of his employer’s company thus putting in jeopardy the job security of other employees in the company.
The writer ignores the clear fact that by trying to circumvent the lawful resolution of the crisis, Mukwano Industries was threatening its own organisational cohesion and unknowingly demoralising its hardworking employees. It is foolhardy for any employee to offer his best at such a workplace well aware that other employees who have (previously) been diligent in the same company or organisation have been neglected, ignored, overtly tortured or summarily dismissed after incurring life-threatening injuries at work.
An ideal employer must advise injured or aggrieved employees on proper procedures for seeking redress rather than waiting for employees to ‘take the law into their own hands’. Unfortunately, few employers willingly compensate employees injured in the course of duty or due to employer’s deliberate acts of malevolence towards employees. Most employers pray that injured or aggrieved employees drop or ignore unrequited demands for compensation and silently go back to work as if nothing happened. Gagging employees is unfair and contrary to labour laws. Employers are willing to shoulder the legal and financial burdens of injuries and their acts of violence against employees only when compelled. This is the main cause of labour-management tensions in most companies.
Employers should organise training programs for employees on how to identify, report, mitigate and respond to risks at work. The occupational safety goals, programs, policies, plans and procedures of companies need to be documented and shared with employees.