The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hajjat Janat Mukwaya has appealed to the private sector to leverage the opportunity for provision of labor in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where at least 80,000 Ugandan workers are needed in the next one year.
On June 26, the Minister together with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), represented by Minister Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Manpower and Domestic Worker Protocol.
The MoU sought to strengthen cooperation by providing a legal framework for the employment of Manpower from Uganda in the UAE. It also aims at establishing a mechanism to discuss and exchange views on labour related problems and to resolve any outstanding issues relating to workers and their rights.
According to Minister Mukwaya, the MoU establishes a mechanism to discuss and exchange views on labour related problems and any outstanding issues relating to workers wellbeing and their rights.
“Immediately upon signing of the MoU, my colleague Minister H.E Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli challenged me ‘I need 80,000 Uganda workers in the next 12 months’. This is a huge undertaking and I urge the private sector to take up this offer,” Mukwaya said in a statement.
However, her statement comes against a backdrop of criticism towards government from different stakeholders, over the failure to safeguard Ugandans, especially female workers many of whom have been subjected to torture and mistreatment in the Middle East.
Victims of this mistreatment have in the recent past given horrifying ordeals of the suffering they endured working as house maids in the Middle East. Some have managed to return to Uganda with deteriorating health while some have died and others are still trapped there with no way out. At the centre of the problem are the high levels of unemployment in Uganda which have forced many to continue leaving the country in pursuit of greener pastures.
On Thursday, the Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze while submitting in Parliament, called for a ban on the exportation of workers to the Middle East, citing an incident in which a Ugandan woman was auctioned to the highest bidder and bought at USD 3,000.
Minister Mukwaya says UAE has been the largest destination for the bulk of Ugandan migrant workers. She said the absence of a formal undertaking with the UAE government had made the protection of migrant workers and their welfare difficult.
“The unregulated business had given room to illegal recruitment, trafficking and exploitation,” she said.
However, she says that with an agreement in place, “more organized and safe employment shall be created”.
Under the MoU between Uganda and UAE, the terms and conditions of employment of Ugandan worker in the United Arab Emirates shall be defined by an individual employment contract between the worker and the employer.
Then both parties shall sign an offer that is mirrored on the contract, prior to the worker’s departure from Uganda.
The prospective worker will be availed a written text of the employment offer (in English and Arabic) and the offer will be explained by the Ugandan recruitment agency to the recipient where unclear.
“All recruitment, hiring and placement activities of workers in both countries shall be permitted only under recruitment companies licensed by both Governments,” the terms state.
Upon arrival of the worker in the United Arab Emirates he/she will sign an employment contract that will clearly state the rights and obligations of the worker and employer, in conformity with the labour laws of the United Arab Emirates.
The contract will then be duly filed with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization in the UAE to constitute the sole binding contract document for the purpose of enforcement in the United Arab Emirates.
Regarding the middlemen who have often taken a huge share of the recruitment and placement costs, Minister Mukwaya says Article 5 of the MoU ensures that the employer incurs all recruitment fees and that none shall be levied on the worker.
“This therefore ends the burden of placement fees that have previously been borne by the worker and hence ends exploitation that has been going on”.
She says that by signing the MoU, the two countries present a critical effort in the fight against human trafficking that has become a menace.
“This shall be achieved by the two countries enforcing fair and transparent recruitment practices in their respective jurisdiction and ensuring that all actors comply in the process of recruiting Ugandan workers for employment in the UAE in accordance with the rule of law”.
Uganda started the programme of labour externalization in 2005 with the purpose of reducing the unemployment burden. It is implemented under The Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad) Regulations, 2005.