Rwanda Workers Trade Union (CESTRAR) has for years been trying to adjust the current minimum wage in vain.
It is true that the current minimum wage of Rwf100 per day set in the early ‘70s is not applicable today and, once again, this was one of the issues highlighted by workers’ representatives as the country marked the International Labour Day, yesterday.
Parliament and other stakeholders have been grappling with the issue but the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” is nowhere to be seen.
The absence of a minimum wage is a loophole that unscrupulous employers use to exploit employees. Trade unions, which in normal circumstances would be speaking up for their members, have no bargaining power. They are more like associations where they just talk, moan and complain but with little say to change the status quo.
Industrial action such as pickets and workers downing tools to send home their message is practically unheard of in this country and is not necessarily the best way to address such issues. Instead, both sides usually find an arrangement.
So, strengthening workers’ bargaining power should be parliament’s authority. But that should be done without destabilising the financial health of employers.
A working solution should be found that takes the interests of all without favour. But that should begin by first doing away with the archaic minimum wage currently in place.
The ministry in charge of labour goes on the record every year that they are working on the minimum wage, but there does not seem to be any sense of urgency as the draft legislation has not yet been sent to parliament.
Let those working of the minimum wage make it their priority, so that this time next year they will have some good news for the worker.