Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 13:07 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Uganda

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Uganda, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661db28.html [accessed 30 September 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: 32,700,000
Capital: Kampala
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Police shot and killed two striking workers and seriously injured a third at a leading tobacco company. There was no improvement in the respect for collective bargaining and collective agreements were ignored in several cases. Strikers were faced with mass dismissals and a cut flower company denied union officials access to its premises.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Some issues remain despite basic trade union rights being guaranteed. In 2006, four labour reform bills were passed, all of which significantly improved labour laws concerning workers' rights. Employers are barred from interfering in workers' right to organise, and it is a criminal offence to obstruct this right. However, organising is prohibited in the Export Processing Zones.

The right to collective bargaining is guaranteed under the Labour Unions Act, and the Labour Disputes Act 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 latter 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, a procedure that is tantamount to compulsory arbitration.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: The year was marred by corruption and violence. In June the public prosecutor opened investigations into the Vice-President, Foreign Minister, several other ministers and officials over the alleged theft of USD25m. Also in June, troops were ordered to step up border security following the apparent resurgence in the Democratic Republic of Congo of the ADFNALU rebels striving for an Islamic state in Uganda. Two bomb attacks on people watching the World Cup final killed at least 74 people in July. The Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab says it was behind the blasts. In August the National Resistance Movement's primary elections for parliamentary and local candidates were suspended amid irregularities and violence. Opposition demonstrations protesting against the composition of the electoral commission were met with police brutality.

No collective bargaining in public sector: No public service unions, including medical staff and teachers, are able to negotiate their salaries and employment terms as these are fixed de facto by the government.

Union rights often not enforced: Uganda was criticised in 2009 by an ILO representative in the country for failing to protect workers' rights to organise and engage in collective bargaining for fear of offending foreign investors. These rights were further hampered by heavy bureaucracy, the ILO said. In a meeting with the Labour Minister in September 2009, the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) expressed serious concern about the ill-treatment of workers by foreign investors.

Collective agreement ignored, right to organise denied: The National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) reported in November that it had petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Major General Kale Kayihura, over the working conditions of private security guards. Over 35 private security firms are registered with the police, many of them employing over 250 guards. The guards complained that conditions set out in collective bargaining agreements, including compensation for injuries and correct dismissal procedures, had not been respected. They also complained that in some cases employers deny security guards the right to join trade unions.

Union leaders denied access to workers: The Uganda Horticulture and Allied Workers Union (UHAWU) registered a complaint with the Labour Commissioner on 8 July stating that the management of JP Cuttings Ltd. blocked union leaders from accessing workers at the workplace. This had occurred on several occasions, the most recent being on 1 July. The managing director, Mr.Piet de Jong, directed his security personnel to block entry to the union leaders who came to visit the farm to address workers in a scheduled meeting.

Mr. Piet de Jong also intimidated union members to make them withdraw from the union and assaulted the union's Secretary General, Mr. Stephen Barasa, when he went to oversee workers being paid. The Union and JP Cuttings Ltd. were still involved in a court battle at the end of the year.

Three strikers shot and two killed by police: Police fired live ammunition during a workers' strike at British American Tobacco (BAT) on 7 September. Two people, Denis Bazaare and Bernard Byabasaija, died and a third, Sylvia Kabasinguzi, was injured and treated at Hoima Hospital. The strike was called over a pay dispute that had been going on for two months. The employer called in the police who began shooting at the workers.

The Inspector General of Police acted swiftly, ordering the arrest of five police officers and the confiscation of their guns. Three of the five officers, the District Police Commander, Augustine Kasangaki, the officer in charge of Hoima Central Police Station, Romeo Ojara, and the Head of Operations, Luke Mbusa, were charged with negligence of duty, cowardice and irregular conduct. The police also paid for the funerals of the deceased workers.

Dismissed during collective bargaining negotiations: On 30 September management at Record Network Television suddenly dismissed 60 workers. It had been in negotiations with the Uganda Media Union (UMU) and on 29 September the managing director met with the labour commissioner and agreed that a collective bargaining agreement would be signed. However, the next day the company refused to recognise the agreement and instead announced it was dismissing staff. The union called on the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) to intervene. The employer responded by calling in the police, as if it were a strike. The union petitioned parliament, and the matter was still unresolved at the end of the year. Record Network Television is owned by Record International, based in Brazil.

Arrests and indefinite closure in response to rice factory strike: When workers at Tilda Uganda Ltd, a rice processing firm, went on strike on 4 November the riot police were called in and 18 people were arrested. The workers complained about low pay and poor working conditions, including the lack of protective gear, sexual harassment, child labour and the nonrecognition of their union for the last 14 years. The workers, Tilda management, the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) and the labour ministry held a series of meetings in which they agreed to resume work as negotiations continue. However, on 15 November the company announced it was closing down indefinitely to allow for an investigation into the strike and assess all options. NOTU had asked Tilda to resume operations while carrying out the investigations so that the workers would not lose their jobs.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld

Countries