The issue of a minimum wage in the country has been dragging on for ages with no end in sight. When the Minister for Public Service and Labour appeared before parliament this week the issue again came up.
Lawmakers are usually irked that the minimum wage has never changed for several decades. It stands at Rwf100 per day. That could be the legislative case, but in actual fact, it is far from the truth as employers and employees seem to have come up with their own formula, a kind of an unwritten understanding between the two parties.
But it is time that adhoc arrangement came to an end even though most employers try to give some level of living wage, but that should not be left to their whim.
The welfare of workers should always be prioritised just as well as their safety in the workplace. It is very common to see construction workers perched seven floors up an upcoming building with no harness or other safety gear.
But how can all those challenges be addressed when the ministry only has 33 labour inspectors to cover the whole country? That is one issue the institution will first have to address. There is no way workers’ issues can be addressed without real time information on the challenges they meet.
True, there are several workers syndicates but they carry little clout. Most of their roles end up with making recommendations they can do little about. So, as we wait for trade unions to build their base, the Labour ministry is their only watchdog, but it will first have to put its house in order by strengthening its inspectorate department.