Civil society concerned over plight of casual laborers worst hit by Covid-19 pandemic

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Civil society organizations have blasted the government for failing to put in place measures to mitigate casual labourers around the country from the gross effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic and its effects like the lockdown, several companies laid-off workers as a way of cutting their costs of production.

Addressing a news conference on Monday, Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director at Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda said many workers in factories have been greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects.

“As casual laborers they have been some of the most affected by the pandemic. With the increasing spread of the pandemic and the effects of the responses to curb its spread, many casual laborers have been terminated from work as companies seek to lower their cost of production while paying lesser attention to human rights protection,” Nalunga said.

She explained that they predict this trend of affairs will continue for as long as the pandemic is still around but the government is turning a blind eye to it.

According to David Kabanda from the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), many employees are given hard work but not adequately catered for by employees in terms of protective gear and food which violate their rights.

He explained that this is mostly in companies that employ casual laborers.

“We are concerned the policy framework protects investors at the expense of the local communities and employees. This should not be the way things are run,” Kabanda said.

“Government has failed to strike a balance between protecting citizens and investors. The latter are protected more than the other.”

Demands

The civil society organisations asked the government to investigate the situation of workers in commercial investment schemes such as factories, flower farms, and plantation investments to secure redress for the affected persons.

“Government should direct all investments to take up the full responsibility of providing workers, both casual permanent workers with proper personal protective equipment on a sector by sector basis; task by task basis, and for protection against exposure to various injuries, and chemicals during their work; and against COVID-19,” Jane Nalunga said.

The civil society organizations asked the government to look into amending the Investment Code Act, the Employment Act, and the Occupation Health and Safety Act to protect people’s right to dignity and livelihood.

“Government should urgently finalize the enactment of the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015 to ensure that Ugandan labor is protected from exploitation through the payment of very low wages. We should not use cheap labour as our scoring card but rather use skilled labour. The government should put the lives of citizens before profits.”

They say that with a proper law, the issue of casual labour will be dealt with decisively.

 

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