MPs outline six challenges undermining productivity of Rwanda’s labour force

The Parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs yesterday briefed the Minister of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA), Fanfan Rwanyindo Kayirangwa on the issues that are still holding back the labour market, calling for her quick intervention in finding long term solutions.

The President of the Committee, MP Christine Muhongayire, told the Minister and her team that members of her committee had traversed several districts in all the country’s provinces and discovered several issues that are affecting productivity the labour force.

1. Lack of Ministerial Orders

Muhongayire pointed out that one of the main issues that stood out during her committee’s fieldtrip was the issue concerning the labour law where 17 Ministerial Orders are not yet public, something that she said is affecting the day to day delivery of many sectors.

“There are 17 Ministerial Orders that are instrumental and they have not yet been released and even those in charge of labour inspection are having difficulties executing their duties without them since there are no guidelines,” she said.

She cited an example of the Ministerial Order regarding Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which she said lacked guidelines on how to go about salaries and this was in the process hurting the people working for these enterprises.

2. Employee health and safety

The MPs pointed out that their trip had taken them to areas like mines where safety should be paramount but is to date still lacking.

MP Muhongayire said that the workers in this area lack basic first aid training and must rely on being rushed to the nearest health centre in case of an accident.

This, according to the lawmakers poses even more risk since most of the health centres are far from the areas where the injured are located.

“We found people who cannot hear anymore and those that are going blind because of the nature of the work that they do without protective gear,” she said.

In January this year, 14 miner died in a tin and coltan mine in Ntunga Cell, Mwulire Sector, and Rwamagana District. Seven of them were women.

According to figures from Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, 80 deaths of mine-related accidents occurred last year, while in 2017 the number of the fatalities was at 27.

3. Imbalance in salaries

Muhongayire also pointed out that in their fieldtrip, the MPs found out that there was frustration among the working class where salaries were not streamlined bringing about an imbalance among employees.

“We found out that there was an issue of lack of basic salary scale or streamlined salaries where you find employees are doing the same exact job but earning different salaries saying that this was affecting delivery saying that this has been ongoing for almost a year.

4. No culture of saving

The MPs also told the Minister of their disappointment that there were some people who are to date still lining to be paid their salaries in cash instead of using bank accounts.

“The culture of saving is not common in this country. What we are doing as a nation is to sensitise the masses about the value of saving for future use. One of the best ways to achieve that is by paying the masses through the bank,” the Minister heard.

5. Lack of contracts

MP Muhongayire decried the lack of contractual agreements between employers and employees saying that this unfairness was mostly in the areas of tea and mining sectors.

“There are those who told us that this because these employees are temporary yet when we dug deeper, we found out that some of them had worked in the same place for as long as even six years especially in the mining and tea sector where the excuse is that work is seasonal. It’s unfair,” she said.

6. Employing children

According to MP Frank Habineza, in for instance Rulindo district, they are still fining people who employ children yet this is now in the penal code as a criminal case.

MP Bartholomew Karinijabo called on the Ministry to expedite the release of the Ministerial Orders because of their value to keeping those in public sector and labour in check.

“There are places we went to and the inspectors told us that they were blocked from entering some institutions because they have no Ministerial Order cover. If we have labour inspectors around these districts, let’s make it easier for them to do their work,” he said.

Karinijabo also said that there was need to sensitise the masses about the orders adding that many were still relying on old laws.

Minister reacts

Minister Rwanyindo agreed with the committee and promised to work on the issues that had been raised.

“Your observations are objective and the gaps that you have showed us here today are real. What is remaining on our side is to make corrections and we will do so soon,” she said.

The Committee will compile a report their findings before presenting it to the Plenary.