Workers employed in private institutions, including banks and telecommunication companies, through employee outsourcing firms, are concerned that they are given short unreliable contracts, as well as meagre salary, an issue that they want revised. Some of them, who voiced their complaints on condition of anonymity, said that banks sign agreements with outsourcing companies so that they bring them employees, who are often university graduates. ALSO READ: Why are we stuck with a minimum wage set 40 years ago? They argued that most tellers in some banks have contracts of three or six months, and are ‘treated like commodities’ – that they are exploited through hard work but earn peanuts, yet there are other tellers in the same institutions who get higher remunerations. “It is like working without a secure future, and you serve under such conditions for years, getting peanuts, despite your sacrifice, while the company gets too much revenue,” one of the affected employees said. Another claimed that they get a salary equivalent to a third of other employees’ pay for the same work and sometimes work longer hours than the latter. Connected to that, they said that the health insurance that is offered by those outsourcing companies are often ineffective, as they are not allowed to get treatment from private hospitals, and top public hospitals in the country like the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) and Kanombe Military Hospital. Reacting to the concerns, the Rwanda Labour Rights Organization (RLRO) said that this is one of the problems that are caused by third party contracting employee management companies and private recruitment agencies, which are given human resource management in big institutions, and tend to protect their interests at the expense of the employees in question. Germain Mirimo, Executive Director of RLRO, told The New Times that the organisation is gathering information about the cases in question, so that it helps the affected workers in terms of advocacy, addressing the issues amicably through mediation, or taking legal action if need be. “We requested that any affected worker approaches us so that they provide us with full information, including the terms of their contract, and how many times they were granted the three-month contract they mentioned,” he said, adding that the law provides that an employer should not give a three-month contract to a worker more than two times. Indeed, the law regulating labour in Rwanda, which was enacted in 2018, provides that the probation period cannot exceed six months – in two separate three-month trials. According to the law, if the probation period comes to an end and proves to be conclusive (with the employee's good performance and conduct), the employee is immediately offered a long term contract and notified in writing by the employer. However, an official from NFT Consult – an outsourcing company–told The New Times on condition of anonymity, that it respects legal provisions while recruiting and managing workers for clients, including telecommunication companies and banks. For the terms of the contract, including its duration and salaries, he said they are determined by the client (employer), not the outsourcing company, arguing that there was no double standards in the treatment or paying salaries of workers. “The benefits due to the employee are ensured, including paying contributions to pension scheme, and health insurance,” he said, refuting the claim that an outsourcing company gets undue benefits from the employment contract to the detriment of the work. The equal pay principle compliance Mirimo said that due to the lack of a minimum wage in Rwanda, it is difficult to define whether a given salary is small. However, he pointed out, it should be ensured that employees who do the same work, with the same job description, equal number of hours and working conditions, and work for the same employer, get the same pay. “The principle of equal pay should be respected,” he said. Short-term contracts ‘infringing employee’s rights’ The discontented employees argued that the short-term contracts they are given deprive them of access to employment related benefits that others receive, such as bonus on performance, salary loans, and paying their contributions to the pension scheme, which endangers their future. “You are not allowed to get a loan like other employees because you are considered a casual labourer without a secure contract,” once said. On this issue, Mirimo said that short-term contracts do not provide a decent working condition for employees, nor motivate or help them to develop. “A worker cannot get other benefits associated with salary, as they cannot take such a contract to a bank and get a loan, and they do not have job security,” he said, observing that this situation negatively affects the worker’s productivity and the profitability of the employer. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Service and Labour said that it was looking into the issue. Speaking to The New Times, Fanfan Rwanyindo, Minister of Public Service and Labour, said that the terms and duration of the contract are subject to an agreement between an employer and employee. “What we insist on is that every worker should have a contract and get the due benefits including contributions for pension and occupational hazards,” she observed, pointing out that the duration can depend on the timeframe of a project or activity in question.