PUBLISHED ON July 24th, 2014


Source: Daily News
EAST African heads of state meet for their ordinary summit on Wednesday at the time when worker and employer associations in the region are raising concern over conflicting processes in acquiring work permits.

The work permit problem is also being tabled just as workers across East Africa are preparing to join their colleagues worldwide in celebrating the International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, on Thursday.

It is also approaching five years after the East African Common Market Protocol sailed through. That was the main topic for discussion during the meeting between trade union officials from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi as well as employers from the region.

The trade unionists met during their Second Regional Forum Meeting held here under the auspices of the East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) and the East African Employers Organisation (EAEO).

Apparently, the East African Common Market Protocol, which was established in July 2010, and whose components include free movement of people, capital and labour across the five EAC member states, seems to be ignored by almost all countries except Rwanda.

“It is still very difficult for people to move from one country and work in another due to constraints related to work permits and the cumbersome processes that people undergo to acquire the documents,” the EATUC Executive Secretary, Ms Caroline Khamati-Mugalla, has stated.

“Member states need to agree on the harmonization of working permits within the East African countries, because some countries like Tanzania charge over US $ 2000 for the documents with the process of application sometimes taking up to six months, Uganda and Kenya demand US $ 1000 and up to a month in securing the permits,” pointed out the EATUC executive.

The Executive Director of the Zanzibar Employers Association, Mr Salahi Salim Salahi, observed that while hefty work permit fees are meant to protect the local labour force from the invasion of alien workers, countries should apply other measures, such as upgrading skills of their work forces to make them “more employable and resilient to labour dumping”.

In Zanzibar, work permits cost only 300 US dollars and due to that the Islands have been a darling destination for job seekers from across East Africa.

Rwanda was praised for throwing open the doors to its labour market by allowing people from the other four East African countries to work there without having to pay for work permits, documents that are issued freely within 48 hours of application.

Mr Oscar Mkude from the Association of Tanzania Employers said that it was high time the informal and private sectors were involved in negotiations at East African level, especially where matters of labour movement and employment are concerned.

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