An umbrella bringing together several workers’ organisations in the country has added its voice to those calling for revision of the minimum wage from the current Rwf100 daily.
The Committee for Synergy of Partner Organisations for the World Solidarity for Workers in Rwanda said the current minimum wage, set in 1974, doesn’t reflect the current economic realities and cannot guarantee improved workers’ welfare.
The group consists of the Labour Congress and Workers Fraternity in Rwanda (COTRAF), the Centre for Workers Training in Rwanda (CEFOTRAR), the Federation of People’s Movement in Rwanda (FMP) and Rwanda Association of Retired (ARR).
It argues that public servants who retired starting in the 1970s, for instance, are leading miserable lives as some earn as low as Rwf5,200 per month which is too low compared to the current cost of living.
The Rwanda Association of the Retired (ARR) has proposed that at least the minimum monthly pension benefits should be Rwf26,000.
The issues came up last week at a news conference called by the body to brief journalists on why the minimum wage and pension benefits need to be revised.
Speaking to the media, Ildephonse Nkiliye, a consultant researcher, said that low income and pension earners live a miserable life with some struggling to get basic needs such as food.
With reference to a study on socio-economic conditions of retired and low income earners in Rwanda, that was commissioned by the same Committee and published in October 2014, Nkiliye said many workers are struggling to put food on the table.
The study shows that 95 per cent of respondent workers said that their salary does not match the current market prices, with 80.6 per cent of the respondents revealing that the salary they receive does not manage to cover their monthly needs.
“We found that life for low income workers is very hard; for example, about 95 per cent retired people were surviving on Rwf10,000 per month, making them a burden to their relatives who they depend on to survive,” said Nkiliye.
A serious concern?
Dominique Bicamumpaka, the head of COTRAF, said its incumbent upon employers to ensure good welfare of workers.
“We request the government to give Rwandan workers priority as far as welfare is concerned,” Bicamumpaka said.
According to the study, for the low income earners, the minimum monthly wage varies from Rwf20,000 to Rwf200,000 but, the average is between Rwf50,000 and Rwf100,000.
Only a small percentage (2.3 per cent) earns more than Rwf200,000 salary per month.
Etienne Hagumimana, the Deputy Secretary General of Federation of Popular Movement (FMP), said that “it will be always a big burden for the country when a worker is not able to feed family, pay school fees, and cover medical treatment, due to very low minimum wage.”
Eugene Ndayambaje, a low income earner, said he has been earning Rwf120 per hour in construction works, which he argues is too little compared to the taxing work he does.
“There is a need to set a reasonable minimum wage that is favourable for all the workers in their respective categories,” said Ndayambaje.
Meanwhile, commenting on low pension benefits, Modeste Munyuzangabo, the president of Rwanda Association of the Retired, said pension benefits have not been revised over the last 14 years.
Yet, he said, in some countries especially in Europe, pension benefits increase as workers’ salaries increase.
“Life has changed over time and market prices increased but pension benefits have not been increased,” Munyuzangabo noted.
Speaking to The New Times last Thursday, Anna Mugabo, the Director General of Labour at the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, said the matter of revising minimum wage is still under consultation.
“We have a draft (bill) but we are still consulting all concerned stakeholders including citizens. There is progress but we are still waiting for every person’s views because minimum wage is not a simple thing to set in one day,” Mugabo noted.
She said that a new minimum wage will depend on categories of work, adding it will not take a whole year before it comes into force.