Use Billions Collected From Them To Fight For Their Rights: Govt Tasked To Offer Legal Aid To Migrant Workers

Use Billions Collected From Them To Fight For Their Rights: Govt Tasked To Offer Legal Aid To Migrant Workers

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By Spy Uganda

Experts from the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) has called on government to offer free legal services to Ugandans, whose rights have been abused while on duty abroad.

CEPA proposes that since government collects revenue from exportation of domestic workers, part of the revenue should cater for legal aid.

“Many of our migrant workers have been sexually and physically harassed, others have been denied their pay, government should in such a case be able to assist them get justice and claim their payment,” said Brighten Abaho, Programme Associate at CEPA.

He was speaking before the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on Wednesday, 09 November 2022, where he made submissions to the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

Abaho suggested that once the bill is passed, all bi-lateral agreements on labour export, should be reviewed and aligned with the law to rule out any grounds for exploitation as witnessed in several reports.

He further proposed an increment in penalties for Ugandan employers guilty of employee exploitation, cognisant that the existing ones in the principal act are not deterrent enough.

“We are talking about employee harassment, and the fine of not exceeding 42 currency points an equivalent of Shs 840,000 is not deterrent enough. We propose an increment to 200 currency points for anyone who mistreats employees,” said Abaho

CEPA also wants the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development to update Parliament on external labour quarterly.

The committee chairperson, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, said the US$30 charged for every domestic worker abroad does not reach the gender ministry to be able to assist migrant workers. “The ministry lacks money to monitor the sector, all the money goes through Uganda Revenue Authority to the Consolidated Fund to do other things,” said Kabahenda.

Workers’ MP, Hon. Margaret Rwabushaija, said there was need for government to pay attention to the deteriorating relationship between Uganda and countries where it exports labour.

“Where things are going, the Arab world is getting afraid of us. Even our committee which was about to go for oversight has been blocked,” said Rwabushaija. She called on government to open up to other countries for labour export.

Fellow Workers MP, Charles Bakkabulindi, was concerned that the proposed increase in penalties may not be the solution to labour exploitation and suggested strengthening of law enforcement.

“People know how to evade such fines. Therefore, the law enforcement should be the focus, hiking the penalty to so many years, or so many million shillings may not help,” Bakkabulindi said.

The committee has commenced receiving submissions from stakeholders over the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

The bill seeks to regulate employment of domestic and casual workers so as to improve their working conditions. It provides for compulsory registration and licensing of recruitment agencies for domestic workers and non-manual labourers.

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