PUBLISHED ON February 17th, 2015

EAC employers, unionists urge free movement of labour

Regional employers and the trade unions want the East African Community to speedily and fully implement the Common Market Protocol to allow free movement of labour and capital.

The East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) and the East African Employers Association (EAEO) want all barriers to free movement of workers in the region removed quickly, according to statement issued by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).

The regional parliament Speaker, Daniel Kidega, has promised his support.

All this turned out at Eala Chambers in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday, as the organisations called on the Speaker, to make a case for facilitation for free movement.

“A lot was expected following the entry of the Common Market Protocol in July 2010. While the intentions are noble and good, the outcome in terms of implementation has not lived up to our expectations,” Kidega said.

“More could have been done in terms of the provisions of the free movement of persons, labour, goods, services and capital. We are hoping as an Assembly that the Protocol shall be fully enforced”.

The Speaker urged EATUC and EAEO to petition the Assembly over the matter, promising that EALA will address the issue.

On work permits, Kidega noted that some partner states had entered into bilateral arrangements to reduce the existing permit fees and urged harmony.

“Given the importance of free movement of labour, EATUC and EAEO have embarked on a process to provide joint recommendations to the governments of the EAC Partner States in order to speed up this process for the people of East Africa to feel the direct benefits of the regional integration, while respecting the need for a timeframe with adequate transitional mechanisms,” said Rosemary Ssenabulya, Executive Director of Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), an umbrella organisation of employers in Uganda.

Abolish work permits:

In April 2013, while sitting in Kigali, Eala moved a motion for a resolution calling for the abolition of work permit fees in the spirit of enhancing free movement of workers. Kenya and Rwanda eliminated work permit fees for EAC citizens wishing to work in those countries.

“There are important benefits to be reaped by increasing labour mobility and if anything, we should have work permits retained if and only it would boost data collection and not necessarily just as a revenue collection base,” said Wafula Wa Musamia of the East African Trade Union Confederation.

The Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) Executive Director, Dr. Aggrey Mlimuka, called for sustained effort in enhancing social dialogue and said it was important for the workers, employers and regional legislators to meet more frequently.

The Chair of EALA’s Legal Rules and Privileges Committee, Peter Mathuki (Kenya), said: “The stakeholders here today were fully involved in long hours of deliberations and discussions during the negotiations for the Common Market Protocol. We need to work more closely with them and to monitor the process as interested parties”.

Eala understands that although the Common Market Protocol is already in force, Partner States are yet to amend (harmonize) their internal work permit procedures to make provision for equal treatment to EAC citizens, as provided for under Article 12 of the EACMP Protocol.

The process of obtaining work permits is cumbersome and bureaucratic and the regimes, categorizations and procedures within the Partner States vary.

According to a related position paper, the regimes seem to be considered a means of immigration control, rather than a tool for labour market regulation and integration.

In recommendations issued jointly, EATUC and EAEO propose that the processing time for handling the work permits should be shortened to a maximum of 30 days and that priority of handling the work permits be given to applications from EAC citizens.

The organizations proposed that a centralised database be established to capture information concerning work permit issuance and migration flows.

In the long term, EATUC and EAEO call for the establishment of the national One Stop centres on tripartite basis (employers, representatives of relevant ministries and trade union centres) as the central issuing authorities of work permits.

Source: All Africa

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