Parliament has passed the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015 which seeks to establish a minimum wages advisory board that will determine minimum wages of the different sectors in the country.
The Bill that was sponsored by the Workers Member of Parliament (MP), Arinaitwe Rwakajara sought to among others provide for the determination of a minimum wage based on the different sectors of the economy.
The Minimum Wage Bill, 2015 was read for the first time on December 24, 2015 and referred to the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development for consideration, in accordance with RuIe 128 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
It attracted a lot of debate from several legislators who expressed the need for such law in eradicating poverty as well as address the sharp income inequality within the population.
Some MPs also argued the law would protect employees from labour exploitation, increase productivity, reduce corruption and prevent lock outs and strikes at work places.
Kabweri County MP, Francis Gonahasa argued that the minimum wage will increase the quality of life of Ugandans.
“The purchasing power will increase and our people will be able to get the basic needs though the challenge is, how do we enforce this? We need to do some regulation,” Gonahasa said.
On his part, Arua Municipality MP, Kassiano Wadri expressed doubt regarding the enforcement of the new law since many laws have been passed but remain redundant.
“Uganda is one of those countries that had never addressed the issue of minimum wage and it contravenes Article 40 of the constitution. I am affraid that not all workers are unionised. What enforcement methods do we have to handle this?” Wadri asked during his submission.
However, some legislators argued that setting up a minimum wage for the different sectors has some disadvantages which include; reducing investment and growth as well as increasing the levels of unemployment.
West Budama North MP, Richard Otieno noted that what a country currently needs is a basic needs wage not a minimum wage.
“I don’t support a bill which is misdirected because it does not address the issues of the workers. It is somebody’s ability to pay that determines what the employer set for his workers,” Otieno said.
“The bill simply sells Ugandans into unemployment, Uganda is a country yearning for investors yet the minimum wage discourages them from investing into the country.”
The House presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah went ahead to process the bill and was passed with some of the amendments as presented by the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development chaired by PWD Central Representative, Alex Ndeezi.
It should noted that in 1995, the Minimum Wage Advisory Council was put in place under General Notice No. 176 /1995 in accordance with Section 3(1) of the Minimum Wage AdvisoryBoards and Councils Act, Chapter 164 to enquire into wages of Uganda’s unskilled labour and make recommendations.
The Advisory Council recommended a monthly rate of Shs 75,000 which Cabinet reviewed to Shs 65,000. However, this recommendation was never implemented.