Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 13:56 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Uganda

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Uganda, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
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: 33,400,000
Capital: Kampala

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Police stormed a sit-in by steel workers and prevented union representatives from meeting food workers. The government imposed its own choice of leader on a nurses union, but did finally recognise public service unions as bargaining agents. A report by a human rights NGO found widespread denial of workers' and trade union rights.


President Museveni won a fourth term in the February election, but protest demonstrations followed. Fierce repression by the Ugandan security forces resulted in the death of nine people, while opposition politicians and hundreds of supporters were arrested. Civil unrest increased as inflation rose to 16%, including a wave of strikes by teachers, doctors, tea pickers, factory workers, over pay and conditions.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Good news – government finally recognises civil servants' unions: The government finally signed a recognition agreement with the public service unions on 22 November, ending an 18 year wait. Although the government had amended trade union decree number 20 of 1976, which prevented civil servants from organising, in 1993, the changes had never been implemented. Under the November 2011 agreement ten unions were recognised to negotiate directly with government on behalf of unionised workers. However, the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) expressed surprise that the Uganda Public Employees Union (UPEU) had not been included. The head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr John Mitala, said there would be a public service negotiation and consultative council to facilitate discussion between the government and public service labour unions.

Widespread denial of workers' trade union rights: A report released in April by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)found that employer refusal to recognise and negotiate with trade unions remained widespread. The report also showed that the increasing use of casual labour had further weakened the ability of workers to enforce these rights as employees are not given written contracts of employment and have no job security or union representation. In the absence of union protection, employee bargaining power is severely weakened by the high rate of unemployment. There are too few labour officers and the industrial court is inoperative as no judge had been appointed to the court. The shortage of labour inspectors also means that the enforcement of occupational safety and health standards is weak


NOTU blocked from meeting workers at rice company: On 16 March, management at Tilda Uganda Ltd, one of the largest processors of rice, denied National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) officials access to the company premises to conduct a meeting with the workers. Anti-riot and regular police deployed at the premises denied them access at the request of management, saying NOTU officials were bent on inciting workers to strike, an allegation the unionists denied. They were there to address long-standing issues over workers welfare. NOTU had been pushing for the creation of a trade union to boost workers' bargaining power, but management obstructed this. The company wanted to decide which union should represent the workers, and they did not want NOTU. After being denied access, NOTU tried to address the workers by the road side in the nearby Buwuni Town. However, anti-riot police later arrived and dispersed the gathering.

In November 2010, the workers had gone on strike protesting the poor working conditions and the management's refusal to allow them form a labour union.

Police storm steel workers sit-in: When workers at Tembo Steels Uganda Limited organised a sit-down strike in protest at low pay and poor working conditions on 28 April, what was described as a heavy deployment of police stormed the meeting. Workers reported low pay, ill treatment, workplace accidents and sexual exploitation. They had already protested in 2010 about the same issues, to no avail. The sit-in prompted the Uganda Mines, Metal, Oil, Gas and Allied Workers Union to intervene and take up the workers' grievances with management.

Government interference in choice of union leadership: The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development blatantly interfered in the affairs of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) in December, by not allowing them to choose their own method of choosing their next general secretary. The union wanted members to select a new leader at their next Annual General Meeting in accordance with its constitution. Yet the Ministry insisted the new person should be selected by interview panel. The union's former leader, Patrick Bateganya, had died suddenly (of leukemia) a month earlier. In the meantime, the permanent secretary of the ministry had already unilaterally appointed Ms Edith Nasuuna as acting secretary general.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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