12 January 2013

Rwanda: New Minimum Wage Survey Commissioned

THE MINISTRY of Public Service and Labour in partnership with the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), is collecting data which will help the government determine the new minimum wage.

Currently, the 1974 Labour Law is still in force. And this means the minimum wage is Rwf100 per day. With this, Trade Unions say that there are some workers earning Rwf 300 a day; and that this is over exploitation in the labour market. Most of tFrancois Ngoboka, the Director of Labour, Research and Employment Promotion at the ministry said the study is aimed at establishing the current remunerations, especially for casual labourers and market trends.

"The available information is what will be built on considering the current situation on the labour market in terms of supply and demand," he said.

According to Ngoboka, the survey will be completed in March and it will show the level of wages, salaries, and income for people involved in different economic activities which will be the basis to determine the minimum wage by comparing the data with the economic context of the country.

H. Mukandahiro

"Setting a minimum wage has to be a careful undertaking. Yes, it protects workers, especially those in low paying jobs, but it has to take into account the productivity of specific factors," Ngoboka said.

Previously, the government took two different steps to kick start the project, but hit a snag. In the first attempt, a Tanzanian firm was contracted but officials at the Labour ministry say the firm provided substandard data. The second firm, from Kenya, provided data that showed more than what government was able and willing to pay for work.

The latest step is expected to give hope not only to causal workers, but also members of the Central Trade Union of Workers (CESTRAR), and the Labour Congress and the Brotherhood-Rwanda (COTRAF), the trade unions which last year expressed concern over the pace at which the government was handling or responding to the minimum wage concern for casual labourers.

JP Mugiraneza

Protecting workers

The two trade unions, had in the past, called on government to set a minimum wage for casual labourers in rural areas at Rwf 1,500 and Rwf 2,000 for those in Kigali per day. This call, the trade unions argued was based on the survey they conducted that proved that the cost of living especially in Kigali had increased; and that causal workers are not able to access basic needs.

Speaking to Saturday Times on Thursday, the General Secretary of COTRAF, Francois Ntakiyimana, said although the government had not given them an official communication about the current study he hoped the move would not only protect workers, but also build a good working relationship between employees and their masters. He also noted that this will also lead to increase in production as a result of love for work.

Issiaka Mulemba

He was echoed by the Secretary General of CESTRAR, Eric Manzi, who urged the government to move faster in setting the standards for labour wages.

"Today we know the economic reality in Rwanda, why can't we have a temporary plan? We can't continue like this, it's an urgent matter because people need to have a minimum wage, it's a human rights issue," he said. "It doesn't require developing a sophisticated plan."

If demands of these trade unions are anything to go by, it means that at least the lowest paid casual labourer will earn Rwf 160,000 a month, up from the current Rwf 10,000 a month.

Jean Damascene Ahishakiye,

As experts advise that a minimum wage in any growing economy is necessary, they warn that setting it high scares away investors or employers.

Ngoboka, however, criticised CESTRAR and COTRAF's suggestion that the minimum daily wage in agricultural sector should be Rwf1,500 and Rwf2,000 in other sectors.

"There is a reason why farm labourers currently make between Rwf500 and Rwf700 and you may find that doubling this amount may not be something that employers can afford," he said.

Both Ngoboka and Manzi insist that the last minimum wage standard, which was decided in the 1980s, is outdated. For instance the rule of supply and demand has made the standard so irrelevant for current circumstances that farm labourers no longer earn a daily standard wage of Rwf100.

The minimum wage issue has previously aroused mixed reactions, forcing the Private Sector Federation to discuss it with employers. Employers prefer that wages should be determined by the market demand; implying that employers and employees must discuss and come to the terms and cost of labour.

According to some casual workers, this leaves them with no option but to work even for peanuts, saying that the law would rescue them.

For the Finance Manager at textile company UTEXRWA, Ritesh Patel, that rule of demand and supply should stay because setting up a minimum wage would make his employees lazy. He prefers to hire someone based on their skills and the kind of work they have to accomplish instead of allowing them to charge a standard daily wage.

"I don't think it (minimum wage) is practical. It'll be useless," he says.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) insists that workers, especially domestic workers, need laws to "urgently" be protected.

Minimum wage should depend on the market. At least the lowest salary should be Rwf150,000 per month. The salaries have to go along with the situation on the market.

H. Mukandahiro ,Accountant

A house keeper is considered the least paying job in the country. Ideally a househelp should not receive anything under Rwf20,000 per month.

JP Mugiraneza, student

According to the market prices and how fast the population is growing, the minimum wage per month should be not less than Rwf50,000 for the most negligible job.

Issiaka Mulemba, Journalist

The lowest salary for a house keeper for example should be Rwf50,000 but this should depend on the kind of work they do.

Jean Damascene Ahishakiye, Cleaner and house keeper

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