Labour Day: The sticking issues affecting workers

Rwanda on Wednesday joined the world in celebrating International Labour Day, which was globally celebrated under the theme: Sustainable Pension for All: the Role of Social Partners.
The Minister for Public Service and Labour Fanfan Rwanyindo Kayirangwa (2nd left), Eastern Province Governor Fred Mufulukye (left) and other officials are taken through the process of milk production at Inyange Industries plant in Nyagatare District yesterday. At the national level, Labour Day was marked under the theme: “Quality Work, A Catalyst for Sustainable Development”. Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

Access to sustainable jobs, setting of a minimum wage, compliance to contracts, working hours, and access to social security benefits are the main issues workers need to be addressed in Rwanda.

This is according to the Rwanda Workers’ Trade Union Confederation which goes by French acronym, CESTRAR.

“In our legal department, a large number of cases received from workers concern the fact that they work without written contracts, they work overtime, sometime work even during the night,” said Eric Manzi, the confederation’s Secretary General,  in an interview with The New Times.

Rwanda on Wednesday joined the world in celebrating International Labour Day, which was globally celebrated under the theme; “Sustainable Pension for All: the Role of Social Partners”.

Construction workers at Busanza estate in Kicukiro District. Sam Ngendahimana.

At the national level, celebrations took place in Nyagatare District under the theme: “Quality Work, A Catalyst for Sustainable Development”.

Such issues as highlighted, according to Manzi, are compounded by the fact that many new jobs are precarious, or less paying in nature and mostly use informal methods to disburse remuneration.

Here, he cited agriculture, construction, manufacturing, cleaning services, as jobs that make it almost impossible for the workers “to have a career, save money, or even build a house” since they are not only less paid, but they also don’t contribute to social security.

“We are in a country where there is peace and security, infrastructure development is booming, ease of doing business. Now what we need is how to capitalize this and create enough decent jobs,” he said.

Musa Nsengiyumva, a worker at construction site, in an interview with The New Times admitted that they work without protective gear.

By the time he was being interviewed, he was working to demolish a stony part of a fence at one building in the city. He neither had on gloves, nor any other protective gear.

“Of course many times we don’t have protective gear. Some employers will give you gear, while others will not. How can you ask for protective gear when your job is going to last only a day or two?” he asked.

He says that builders face challenges ranging from working overtime, to, sometimes being cheated out of their pay, yet for him, the best thing is to work, and try not to complain, since if quit, there are many others who will gladly take it.

In his Labour Day message, Manzi urged the Ministry of Public Service and Labour “to publish as soon as possible, the ministerial orders operationalising minimum wage for workers in Rwanda.”

Salaries, qualifications, occupational health and safety, according to him, are still challenges.

According to him, workers in sectors like mining are most affected.

The mining industry in the recent past suffered a number of accidents, with many workers losing their lives in different onsite accidents.

When The New Times contacted Jean Malik Kalima, the chairman of the Rwanda Miners’ Association about concerns in the industry, he said that many of the accidents that occurred in the mining industry were as a result of climatic challenges especially, heavy rains.

This, he said, was coupled with illegal miners who mined in some disallowed places and ended up encroaching on the quarries, even without any form of protection and some end up collapsing.

He however said that the future is brighter with laws in place, education courses for mining at universities, among other things.

Among other issues the trade unions federation raised was the need for insurance for workers, as well as social security,

“Workers must be registered for compulsory social security, then after they could take insurance for more protection,” Manzi said.