TRADE UNIONS have renewed their demand for the Government to set a new minimum wage matching current economic realities and protect vulnerable workers.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, various workers unions officials said it is unfair to continue relying on the minimum wage that was set over three decades ago.
The ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Convention of 1970 indicates that crucial elements to be considered while determining the level of minimum wage will include the needs of workers and their families, taking into account the general level of wages in the country, the cost of living, social security benefits, and the relative living standards of other social groups.
It also states that economic factors, including the requirements of economic development, levels of productivity and the desirability of attaining and maintaining a high level of employment should be considered.
The current minimum wage is at Rwf100 per day, set in 1980s.
Séraphin Gasore, the executive secretary of Labour Congress and the Brotherhood-Rwanda (Cotraf), said employees’ efforts and skills should be fairly rewarded to be able to cater for their families, own decent houses, educate their children and afford medical treatment among others.
“We have been asking one thing and this is setting the minimum wage. With the current high rate of unemployment, employees have no bargaining power over wages; they are at the mercy of employers. It is, therefore, the Government responsibility to revise and set up the minimum wage which can motivate employees and encourage more productivity,” he added.
Gasore said fair minimum wage would not only benefit employees but will also be a way of creating more jobs.
He noted that research by the trade unions conducted in 2014 showed that lowest paid employees in urban areas should earn Rwf127,000 per month while those in rural areas should earn at least Rwf87,000 per month.
“We considered employees without their family. We did not consider that the employee needs health insurance and to educate their children. If you compare current situation this should have changed due to rising market prices but as you know, very few earn the proposed amount,” Gasore said.
Meanwhile, the Rwandese Labour Party (PSR) also joined the call on the Government to increase workers’ guaranteed inter-professional minimum wage, which it said had remained static since 1973.
In a statement signed by chairperson, MP Jean Baptiste Rucibigango, the party called for “the provision of mandatory health insurance to each worker in accordance with the Law No 48/2015 of 23 November 2015, compensate workers without any further ado for workplace accidents and for pension for retired workers and any social security-related allowance in general.”
It also called for urgent establishment of a labour court and voiced its concern of illegal firing of employees in some institutions.
It cited the suspension from duties of more than 350 health workers of Compassion International, 300 staff of former Banques Populaires du Rwanda (BPR) and 150 Opportunity Bank employees.
MINIMUM WAGE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Judith Uwizeye, said works on setting a minimum wages are ongoing. “Laws, especially the labour law ,is very sensitive. It must be agreed on by the Government, employees, trade union and employers. This is the procedure we have been working on for quite a long period but I would say it is about to reach conclusion. We are awaiting scrutiny by the government and submit it to parliament,” she said.
“Minimum wage will be the order that will be attached to that labour law, we cannot tell when the law will be available because it is yet to be sent to the parliament to be voted so I can’t tell when it will be out,” Uwizeye said.
The minister hailed the current achievements in terms of promoting labour in the country and the partnership between government and trade unions but encouraged the public to work harder to sustain the achievements and have further development. The national Labour Day celebrations will today be marked at Kigali Special Economic Zone, with the Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi expected to be the chief guest.