Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

The Global State of Workers' Rights - Uganda

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 31 August 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Global State of Workers' Rights - Uganda, 31 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d4fc7f1c.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

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Ugandan trade unions were first established during the colonial period. In 1956, the Uganda Trades Union Congress was formed and became an affiliate of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). In 1973 the Idi Amin government suppressed organized labor, and it did not revive until 1987, when President Yoweri Museveni's government established the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU), which all private-sector unions were required to join, and Uganda was readmitted to the ICFTU.

NOTU is the largest national trade union group. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development recognizes NOTU as the representative organization of employees and the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) as the representative organization for employers. Together with the government, these organizations form a tripartite negotiating structure. The 2006 Labor Unions Act recognized the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), a rival to NOTU, as a second national trade union group. Uganda has ratified all eight of the International Labour Organization's core conventions. Four labor reform laws passed in 2006 improved workers' rights and repealed the requirement that unions represent at least 1,000 employees and represent 51 percent of the relevant workforce.

Approximately 855,000 of the formal sector's two million workers belong to unions. By law, workers enjoy the right of association, except for those providing essential government services. There is no collective bargaining for public-sector workers, including teachers, whose salaries are fixed by the government.

In practice, the right to freedom of association is threatened. According to a 2008 report prepared by the Uganda African Peer Review Mechanism Commission, only one out of three companies complies with labor and employment laws. The number of clients represented by the Platform for Labor Action (PLA), a labor rights nongovernmental organization that advocates on behalf of workers with grievances, has been steadily increasing. In the past three years, there have been a number of high-profile cases of companies firing, or threatening to fire, employees for strike action. For example, in 2007 a textile company, Southern Range Nyanza, threatened to sack 1,300 employees for striking. In 2008, the Kasese Cobalt Company fired 116 striking workers.

The national minimum wage has not been adjusted in over 20 years. The private-sector pension scheme, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), to which employers contribute 10 percent of employees' monthly salaries, has been tarnished by investment scandals. The government appointed a new board in April 2009 that included five workers' representatives.

Also in 2009, workers called for the establishment of an independent labor, employment, and industrial relations ministry to address worker issues.

Child workers are a vulnerable group in Uganda. There are approximately 2.7 million child workers, half of whom are between ages 10 and 14.

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