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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Uganda

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Uganda, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca67c.html [accessed 29 July 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.

Population: 30,900,000
Capital: Kampala
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The amended labour legislation has contributed to a significant improvement in respect of trade union rights. In most sectors, employers who had traditionally been hostile towards trade unions have agreed to recognise and negotiate with them. In the agricultural sector, some strikers were sacked whilst others were arrested.

Trade union rights in law

New laws remove barriers to organising: In March 2006 four labour reform bills were passed, namely the Employment Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Bill, the Labour Union Bill, and the Labour Dispute Bill, all of which significantly improved labour laws concerning workers' rights. The Labour Union Act (LUA) repeals the Trade Union Act of 2000, and with it the requirement of a minimum of 1,000 employees, representing 51 percent of the workforce in order to form a union. The LUA does not specifically recognise the right to collective bargaining.

The law bars employers from interfering in the worker's rights of association and makes it a criminal offence for an employer to obstruct this right. Anti-union discrimination by employers is prohibited, and the right to strike is recognised.

Labour Disputes: The Labour Disputes (arbitration and settlement) Bill, passed by Parliament in March 2006, provides for the fast resolution of labour disputes and elevates the Industrial Court to the status of the High Court.

However, Section 27 of the Act empowers the Minister of Labour to refer a dispute to the Industrial Court if either side does not comply with the recommendations of a board of inquiry. This is tantamount to imposing compulsory arbitration, according to the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), which has called for the Act to be amended.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The 2006 ceasefire between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army was respected, providing hope of lasting peace in the north of the country.

In a 2007 report monitoring human and trade union rights in Uganda, the ITUC maintained that despite some progress on union rights, workers were still facing harassment and employers were continuing to take reprisals against those trying to form unions and refusing to negotiate collective agreements. That said, it should be stressed that the authorities have repeated their desire for unions to be recognised. In the 1 May celebrations, President Museveni even threatened to prosecute employers who continued to obstruct trade unions.

Unions finally accepted in the textile sector: In August, following an agreement between the Uganda Textile, Garment, Leather and Allied Workers Union (UTGLAWU) and a textile employers' association, the management of three companies, Tristar Apparels, Phenix Logistics and Southern Range Nyanza, agreed to recognise the unions and negotiate with them. Previously the workers in these three companies had repeatedly complained that they were not allowed to join unions.

Several strikers sacked in a textile company: In early October, one of these textile companies, Southern Range Nyanza, threatened to sack its 1,300 employees who had just started a strike called by the UTGLAWU to protest against the blocking of pay negotiations. The management then sent redundancy letters to several strikers. But the UTGLAWU eventually managed to calm things down. The dismissed workers were reinstated and a pay agreement was signed. Following this success, in November the UTGLAWU reached an agreement with Skyfat Tannery, a Chinese leather company, on recognition of a union.

Mass dismissal and arrests in two agricultural firms: In April, a strike by planters in the Sugar Corporation of Uganda (SCOUL) was broken by the management who sacked 50 workers. At the end of 2007, they had still not been reinstated. On 5 June, nine workers striking at Kakonde Tea Estate, in the district of Mityana, were arrested by police. The reason for the strike was the poor working conditions. On 18 June, five of the arrested workers were charged with alleged destruction of property and violence.

No collective bargaining in the public services: No public service unions, including medical staff and teachers, were allowed to negotiate their salaries and employment terms during the year. The government fixed the terms and conditions for all civil service workers. In the private sector some real progress was made, however, with many collective agreements signed, in some cases straight after a union had been recognised, as with the Ugandan subsidiary of the group G4S, which had hitherto refused any dialogue with the unions.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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