Members of the Lower Chamber of Parliament on Monday enacted a new labour law that has left it to the Ministry of Labour to set up a minimum wage through a ministerial order.
Though several legislators had advised the Minister of Labour to indicate in the new labour law how much will be minimum wage once the new labour law is enacted, they ended up settling on the government's wish to set the new minimum wage afterwards through a ministerial order.
At Rwf100 per day, the country's current minimum wage which was set in the 1980s is outdated and out of touch with today's economic realities.
That situation has led labour unions in the country to push the government to revise the wage in order to protect vulnerable workers who are compelled to accept any pay from their employers as the law doesn't specify what is not acceptable to pay workers except below Rwf100 per day.
Under law N°13/2009 of May 27, 2009 regulating labour in Rwanda, which will be amended by the new labour law enacted yesterday, the Minimum Guaranteed Wage (MGW) per categories of work was supposed to be determined by a ministerial order from the ministry of labour after collective consultations with concerned organs.
The revised labour law didn't change that arrangement, leaving Members of Parliament compelled to hope that the government will this time around move swiftly to set up a new minimum wage.
The parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs in the Lower Chamber of Parliament analysed the new labour law enacted yesterday.
Its chairperson, Amiel Ngabo Semahundo, said that a ministerial order will soon decide a minimum wage in the country based on work sectors.
He said that the government has given reassurance that a minimum wage will be determined as soon as the new labour law is enacted.
"We have hope that the minimum wage will be set up soon and it's one of the reasons why we have worked hard to pass this law because we know that setting up a minimum wage will follow it," Ngabo said in an interview yesterday.
While introducing the bill seeking to review the labour law in Parliament in March this year, the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Fanfan Rwanyindo, said that a ministerial order to set a new minimum wage was almost ready and would be published as soon as the new labour law is gazetted.
"We will not continue talking about setting up a minimum wage without doing it. You can trust us on our word that a minimum wage will be set up. We have done a lot of consultations about this," she told the legislators as she tabled the bill.
As the legislators passed the new labour law yesterday, they urged the government to fulfil its promise of setting up the new minimum wage as soon as a new labour law is gazetted.
"After the law is published, the ministerial order should be fast-tracked so we can have a minimum wage because both informal and formal sectors need it," said MP Théodomir Niyonsenga in an interview with The New Times.
He said that calls should be maintained to ensure that the government sets up a minimum wage.
"We hope that this time around it will be done because the private sector and other stakeholders need it. Having a minimum wage in the country would also be good for Rwanda Revenue Authority because it can make better predictions on the earnings of Rwandans," he said.
The Minimum Wage Fixing Convention of 1970 agreed on by member states of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates crucial elements to be considered while determining the level of minimum wages.
The elements include the needs of workers and their families, taking into account the general level of wages in the country, the cost of living, social security benefits, and the relative living standards of other social groups.
The convention also states that economic factors, including the requirements of economic development, levels of productivity and the desirability of attaining and maintaining a high level of employment should be considered.