Lawmakers on Wednesday rooted for improved safety and welfare of workers in the country’s industry sector.
This was during a meeting held with Fanfan Rwanyindo Kayirangwa, the Minister of Public Service and Labour.
Officials in the ministry appeared before the Chamber of Deputies’ standing Committee on Economy and Trade to respond to issues lawmakers say they observed during a tour of industries around Kigali end last year.
MP Juliana Kantengwa, the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee on Economy and Trade, told the minister and her team that all efforts must be made and “the parliament is ever ready to assist through advocacy” and other legal means available to see to it that workers in the sector get a fair deal.
During their field tour at the end of last year, lawmakers noted that they observed issues including employers who do not duly abide by the country’s labour laws and particularly cases and evidence of the issue of workers’ safety not being given proper attention.
From workers who have no written contracts, employers who do not provide insurance coverage to their workforce, workers not being paid salaries on time, abuse and intimidation, to accidents and disease risks at work, lawmakers highlighted an “unacceptable situation” that they insist must be rectified with a sense of urgency.
In her submissions, Rwanyindo acknowledged issues as well as listed plans to turn things around.
“Some of the problems on the ground indeed include some workers who have got no written contracts, employers who don’t provide insurance coverage, and risks of accidents and disease which are not really given attention by the bosses,” Rwanyindo said.
The minister and her team acknowledged issues as mentioned and noted that efforts are being made to reverse the situation. The measures being considered, she noted, include increasing the presence of labour inspectors on the ground, dialogue between concerned parties, and establishing a revised minimum wage.
The minister said: “Among other things, there is a plan to have workers’ representatives in all industries. The problem maybe the issue of these people representing their fellow workers issues appropriately.
MPs were also looking to get to know how the government plans to create 1,500,000 jobs in the next seven years, besides aspects of skills development in the sector.
Ministry officials say efforts are being made to involve the private sector “which is still weak” more and more because it is the main engine of driving growth in the economy.
The minister said: “We are doing more to involve the private sector in job creation but we emphasize that we need decent jobs; jobs that respect our labour laws.”
From 2011 to 2016, the ministry says, the number of permanent employees in the industry sector increased by 10 percent from 18,657 to 20,578.
The ministry, it was noted, has 33 labour inspectors.
Long overdue minimum wage
MPs Emmanuel Mudidi, Gloriose Uwanyirigira and others, among others, took issues with the delayed revision of minimum wage.
Since the 1980s, the country’s minimum wage has been a paltry Rwf100 per day despite the ever increasing cost of living and trade unions’ calls for a review have often been answered with, “we are working on it,” with the process dragging for more than five years.
Lawmakers emphatically told ministry of labour officials that the minimum wage discussion has taken way too long.
Mudidi said: “This issue of minimum wage has always been mentioned [by government officials appearing in parliament] but when will we ever see it actually happening? You must look at this issue seriously.”
MP Rose Mukantabana who is a former Speaker, said: “For many times we were told that it is coming and we didn’t see that happening. What is the problem?”
The minister again acknowledged the delay but noted that prime minister’s office is fast-tracking things to have a satisfactory minimum wage established.