The Debates in Uganda Instil Workers’ Confidence

By Victoria Nanteza Kakooza, NOTU, Mywage.org/Uganda manager

Introduction: Fact-finding and Topical Debates

The WageIndicator project was introduced in Uganda in 2011, while debates became more pronounced during 2012. The debates conducted included those for enabling social dialogue and were on a fact-finding mission. These normally attracted 15 to 25 participants. Participants included workers, representatives from government, preferably from the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD), employers and Labor Commissioners. Another type of debate was on specific themes, such as for example Minimum Wage, and could attract 70-100 participants. These attracted also journalists from different media and panelists from different areas of specialization to enrich the debates. All combined these debates have played several roles, in particular and most importantly:

  • To provide a platform for a free and lively exchange of ideas and break the bondage between government, workers and employers. During these debates workers realized that although they are at different levels, they can discuss amicably and voice their concerns and demands as subordinates. The debates have usually provided a forum for openly discussing volatile concerns;
  • To provide balanced power and a voice for workers that employers and government can understand and use to enforce workers’ rights;
  • To express opposing views like that of instituting a Minimum Wage and to explore opinions in a way that connects rather than divides. The concern of Minimum Wage in Uganda is among the most controversial issues that have pended for long. Debates have made it possible to claim it, despite opposition.

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Participants in a debate voting for a pertinent concern regarding pay rise

How Often is Mywage as a Website Used?

NOTU has organized a number of programs at various work places to sensitize participants about Mywage website, each time making it a point that it is available for free and relevant consultation. This has resulted in increasing numbers of workers, particularly those who are computer literate, to visit the website. More so, Ugandan workers have increasingly become computer literate.

What do Colleagues Think of the Promotion of WageIndicator?

Colleagues have commended me for this work, which without the presence of WageIndicator project would be invisible. They say that debates have rendered opportunity to the workers to interact with employers and government representatives as equal partners. Furthermore that the project provoked Labor Inspectors to inspect work places periodically, more frequently than before. This has improved conditions of work. The work of labor inspectors was totally forgotten, but their involvement in the debates has awakened them to the advantage of workers. WageIndicator created awareness among the workforce on their rights and obligations, as well as sharing problems and devising means for the betterment of working conditions. It has instilled confidence among workers to open up and collectively demand for their rights from an informed point of view. It reminded government to implement existing labor laws, enforce the weak laws and amend the obsolete ones. Involvement of media in the debates has enhanced cooperation with NOTU resulting in objective reporting and better exposure of NOTU.

Conclusion

The WageIndicator project was well thought and timely to consider debates as key in the project. Debates have offered profound and lasting benefits to the workforce and to the entire community. They have inculcated individual skills, emphasized critical thinking, promoted effective communication and critically examined pronouncements of workers’ representation. Debates were public revelations too, since the information reaches out through media to a greater section of the workforce. All of this, thanks to the WageIndicator project.


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