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Lack of minimum wage should trigger legislation change - MPs

Parliamentarians Swearing in Ceremony, September 2018
Parliamentarians Swearing in Ceremony, September 2018

Almost five years ago, the Parliament enacted a law regulating labour in Rwanda. This important legislation left key minimum wage provision details at the discretion of the Minister in Charge of Labour to determine – but it has not yet been set.

The effects of this situation are far-reaching; from employees’ welfare as some get small pay that does not match the current high cost of living, to the controversies in compensation payments for accident victims by insurers, among others, according to some lawmakers, labour unions and insurance firms.

ALSO READ: Labour law passed without setting new minimum wage

Going forward, in order to avoid the recurrence of a similar situation, some lawmakers told The New Times that Parliament should adopt a practice by which both the bills and their implementing orders must be tabled before Parliament for consideration and that all the key provisions should be included in the law.

MP Frank Habineza said about three years ago, the Minister of Public Service and Labour told lawmakers that the draft ministerial order determining minimum wage was submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister and “promised us that it would be published very soon”.

Habineza indicated that when the Committee made a countrywide assessment tour to see how the labour law was being complied with, it held talks with the Ministry, and workers in companies, including mining, factories and hotels, and that the lack of minimum wage was the prevalent issue, with some complaining that they were exploited by their employers through meagre salaries.

“You find that a university graduate (bachelor’s degree holder) goes to look for a job, and when taken on, they are given Rwf100, 000 a month, which cannot even suffice to pay house rent for them.

Because they badly need employment, they cannot complain, instead, they continue working, say for five years, but they cannot achieve progress as they earn peanuts,” said Habineza, who is also the vice chairperson of the Lower House’s Committee on Social Affairs.

He expressed concern that if nothing changes, the parliamentary term is coming to an end this year, without the minimum wage in place.

“Delegating most things to ministerial orders is not effective. So, it’s better to put most details in the law,” he said.

Again, he said that the bills should be coming from the cabinet having all the important details.

ALSO READ: Delayed Ministerial Orders hinder law enforcement, legal experts warn

MP Gloriose Uwanyirigira told The New Times that it is obvious that the absence of minimum wage implies a gap in the legislation.

The Parliament, she said, should consider both the bills and their implementing orders and ensure that such orders are published in the official gazette within two months after the law has come into force, as stated in the Prime Minister’s instructions.

“We have a responsibility in terms of oversight, to know that the laws we passed are enforced,” she said.

The minimum wage issue was also exposed last month by some lawmakers during a session of the Lower House Committee on Social Affairs, which was analysing the bill amending the law regulating labour in Rwanda.

Responding to the is

sue during that session, the Minister of Public Service and Labour, Fanfan Rwanyindo, said that “the Government has not yet taken a decision on minimum wage.”

Implications of the minimum wage delay

The law regulating labour in Rwanda which was passed by Parliament in 2018, provides that an Order of the Minister in Charge Of Labour determines the minimum wage, based on each category of occupation.

Thus far, there is no such minimum wage, which workers’ rights activists have been saying infringes on their rights and can create a loophole for labour and employee exploitation — because employers can pay workers as they please since there is no baseline.

ALSO READ: Why are we stuck with a minimum wage set 40 years ago?

The absence of an up-to-date minimum wage has also created controversies in compensations for accident victims. In one case, judges at the Supreme Court decided to set a flat amount of

compensation – Rwf3,000 a day – that an accident victim should get from insurance companies — in case the victim does not have formal employment (with a written contract and regular pay).

Yet, there are even formal employees who earn less than that as a daily wage. And, the case in question set precedence.

ALSO READ: Insurers petition Supreme Court over minimum wage

According to data from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, there were at least 165,500 formal workers in Rwanda who earned below Rwf60, 000 a month as of June 2022 – that is up to Rwf2, 000 as a daily wage.

Source: Lack of minimum wage should trigger legislation change - MPs - The New Times

Parliamentarians Swearing in Ceremony, September 2018