Labour Minister Tumwebaze Warns Against Illegal Layoff of Employees Amid Covid Crisis

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Frank Tumwebaze

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Frank Tumwebaze, has Friday warned employers against laying off of their employees in this COVID-19 crisis.

He was delivering his speech at State House Entebbe during the scientific celebrations of the International Labour Day presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.

Tumwebaze said only dialogue between workers and their employees can manage the relationship between the two parties in this pandemic that has gross negative effects on both of them.

He revealed that last week, a meeting of the tripartite was held and they agreed on a number of advisory guidelines on mitigating the likely consequences of the pandemic on the worker-employer relationships.

“We all observed that the pandemic has affected both parties in equal measure - it has affected the employers, it has affected the employees. So, we guided that dialogue should be the best way to manage the relationship. We asked the employers and the employees to sit on table and discuss on how to live in the circumstances,” said the Minister.

“Some workers could take leave if at all had accumulated, some could take unpaid leave if the company is not able to raise revenues, some could work from home and deliver output through digital means as a way of reducing crowding at work,” he added.

Tumwebaze however noted that in situations that require laying off of employees, it should be done in line with the law.

“We encouraged employers where it becomes inevitable that they must layoff workers, they should follow the law, the Employment and the Tenants Acts are elaborate,” he said.

“If you lay off the workers in accordance with the law, it goes with severance packages and terminal benefits and so, we told them that since this situation is temporary as we all envisage and hope, a discussion that gives both parties a win, would help,” he added.

Tumwebaze noted that he was hopeful that some companies started moving towards that line, the effects of no pay and half pay notwithstanding.

The development comes at a time when several organisations and companies are laying off many off their staff as well as cutting they salaries due to COVID-19 crisis, including Uganda’s State-owned multimedia conglomerate, Vision Group.

The company has cut salaries for its individual staff by as much as 60 percent due to the impact that coronavirus has had on the company’s operations.

The cuts were this week announced in a memo by Robert Kabushenga, the Chief executive of Vision Group, to staff.

The CEO said the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the business in a more severe manner than could have been foreseen.

Like many of the businesses, news organizations that print newspapers have been significantly affected by restrictions like lockdowns which have inhibited people from leaving their homes to buy newspapers.

This also means the sales generated from newspapers that are distributed to government and private offices have shrunk since the offices are closed.

As such, the Group resolved to reduce the gross salary by 60% for staff that earn between Shs 8m and Shs 19m effective May. For those that earn below Shs 8m, their monthly salary will be cut by 45%.

However, the salary for April will be paid in full, according to the memo.

The Group’s Management said the cuts will be maintained until further notice.

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