Population: 27 600 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 100 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
Four new labour laws were introduced during the year, removing the most serious limitations on freedom of association. In practice, employers in several sectors are still reluctant to recognise unions and the government does not always enforce the law.
Trade union rights in law
New laws remove barriers to organising: In March 2006 four labour reform bills were passed, namely the Employment Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Bill, the Labour Union Bill, and the Labour Dispute Bill, all of which significantly improved labour laws concerning workers' rights. The Labour Union Act (LUA) repeals the Trade Union Act of 2000, and with it the requirement of a minimum of 1,000 employees, representing 51 percent of the workforce in order to form a union. The LUA does not specifically recognise the right to collective bargaining.
The law bars employers from interfering in the worker's rights of association and makes it a criminal offence for an employer to obstruct this right. Anti-union discrimination by employers is prohibited, and the right to strike is recognised.
Labour disputes: The Labour Disputes (arbitration and settlement) Bill, passed by Parliament in March 2006 (and awaiting assent by President Museveni at the end of 2006) provides for the fast resolution of labour disputes and elevates the Industrial Court to the status of the High Court.
However, Section 27 of the Act empowers the Minister of Labour to refer a dispute to the Industrial Court if either side does not comply with the recommendations of a board of inquiry. This is tantamount to imposing compulsory arbitration, according to the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), which has called for the Act to be amended.
Trade union rights in practice
Weak enforcement: In practice the government does not always enforce the law making it an offence to obstruct union organising. Employers in the fish industry for example were not penalised for prohibiting workers from joining a union. Similarly, the government has not enforced the rights of some employees to join unions in newly privatised industries and factories.
Hostile employers: Several companies operating in hotel, textile, construction and transport sectors continue to be hostile to trade unions and refused to recognise and negotiate with them. Such incidents are often not investigated by the government authorities.
No collective bargaining in the public service: No public service unions, including medical staff and teachers, were allowed to negotiate their salaries and employment terms during the year. The government fixed the terms and conditions for all civil service workers.