PUBLISHED ON February 16th, 2015

Trade unions in Arusha urge East African states to abolish NTBs

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) — East African employers and trade unions have called on EAC partner states to swiftly and fully implement the trading bloc’s Common Market Protocol which came into force in July, 2010.

The East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) and the East African Employers Association (EAEO) asked partner states to completely remove all non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in an effort to promote free movement of workers in the region.

They also called on the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Daniel Kidega to make a case for facilitation for freer movement.

Rosemary Ssenabulya, chairperson of the East African Employers Association and Executive Director of the Federation of Uganda Employers, led the delegation when representatives met with the EALA Speaker at the EAC headquarters.

Kidega said that the hopes of the citizens of the region can and will be fulfilled by the full implementation of the common market.

“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.”

“More could have been done in terms of the provisions of the free movement of persons, labor, goods, services and capital.”

“We are hoping that the protocol shall be fully enforced,” Kidega said.

The Speaker urged the EATUC and EAEO to consider petitioning the EALA over the matter, promising that the assembly will seek to address the issue.

He pledged EALA’s support to the workers and promised to take collaboration with both organizations a notch higher in the short term and the long term.

On work permits, the Speaker said that some of the partner states had entered into bilateral arrangements to reduce the existing permit fees and rooted for harmonization on the part of all partner states.

“There is need to ensure consensus across board,” Kidega said.

EAEO chairperson Rosemary Ssenabuluya noted that employers in the region welcomed the integration process as it shores up factors of production and enables free movement across the common market and this was an impetus for economic growth and job creation in the region.

“Given the importance of free movement of labor, 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,” the EAEO chair noted.

Wafula Wa Musamia, the General Secretary of the Kenya Quarry and Mine Workers Union, lamented that the barriers to goods and free movement were hindering growth of the region.

He said that mobility of workers led to reallocation of competences across sectors thus promoting cooperation.

He urged partner states to consider the abolition of work permits all together in the spirit of fostering integration.

Wa Musamia said that partner states were content to holding on to the issue of permits as a revenue collection base.

“There are important benefits to be reaped by increasing labor 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,” he added.

Peter Mathuki, Chairperson of EALA’s Legal Rules and Privileges Committee, said that the workers and employers of the region formed a solid bloc in strengthening the implementation process.

“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,” Mathuki stated.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.