Minimum wage suicidal – minister

Troubled: State minister for labour Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The minister, however, disclosed that the government is still studying the proposed legislation on minimum wage and consulting all stakeholders before a final decision is made.

The State Minister for Labour, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, on Tuesday dampened hopes for establishing a minimum wage in the country, describing the move as suicidal in the face of high levels of unemployment .

The minister, however, disclosed that the government is still studying the proposed legislation on minimum wage and consulting all stakeholders before a final decision is made.

“In a situation such as this when the country’s economy is totally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and with very high unemployment rate, it could be suicidal to create a minimum wage,” Mr Rukutana said.

Speaking to Daily Monitor ahead of celebrations to mark International Labour Day on May 1, Mr Rukutana also disclosed that the government needs to make several consultations with the stakeholders to come up with a favourable minimum wage Bill for Uganda’s various sectors of the economy.

The minister explained that there are millions of unemployed Ugandans and if they come up with certain amount as start-up wage, some will be sidelined.

The minister said government is aware of the problem at hand but that there are millions of people who would do anything to earn a living today.

“This does not mean we are insensitive about the [proposed minimum wage] Bill, but we know what is required for somebody to be employed meaningfully. So we are still balancing the situation, we want to see what form of minimum wage we should take,” he said.

Mr Rukutana also said there is a challenge where some employers pay more start-up salary than what the government had proposed (Shs130,000). This, according to the minister, means if the minimum wage was passed, some of the employees would have been affected.

“We request all the stakeholders and labour unions to be patient as we come up with a reasonable formula to determine the minimum wage depending on certain employment in the country,” he said.

Mr Wilson Owere, the chairperson of National Organisation of Trade Unions, yesterday explained that when the President returned the draft Bill to Parliament in 2019, MPs had the responsibility to look at the comments and send it back to him with options.

“Parliament instead sat on the Bill and they have not come up with a report on that,” Mr Owere said before he scoffed at the minister’s labelling of the proposed law as suicidal.

Background
In February 2019, Parliament passed the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015, that seeks to set a minimum wage determination mechanism across different sectors of the economy.

However in August 2019, President Museveni declined to sign the Bill into law, arguing that the issues it intends to cure are already addressed in the Minimum Wages Advisory Boards and Wages Council Act.

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