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Issue of Minimum Wage should be discussed alongside salary disparities

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Yesterday, Information and National Guidance Minister Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi released a list of names of members of the Minimum Wage Advisory Board, who are supposed to help direct debate on the issue of remuneration in the country.

The Minister also informed the country that the last time government set a minimum wage; it was scaled at Shs 6000 in 1984, way back in Milton Obote’s second regime.

Since then there was a wage adjustment after the 1987 currency reform, setting the wage at Shs60, the equivalent of a dollar then.

The above scenario is disturbing: for the last three decades workers have had a raw deal.

It is important to note that in any national setting, workers are the engine of growth and as such need to be recognized for their efforts in sustaining the respective economies.

The said recognition is the responsibility of the State and that is why it must intervene at the earliest if it detects that there are imbalances in the salaries and wages offered to workers, something that is likely to affect national growth.

So, Muhwezi’s minimum wage communication is a welcome move that is supposed to give hope to the many Ugandan workers who have been short-changed for long.

Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between an employer and an employee cannot be over emphasized: businesses thrive on the acumen of the proprietors and the industriousness of the employees.

This therefore means that we need to put our act together and start debate on how a ‘living wage’ can be arrived at, without hurting the interests of the employer or the employee.

That noted, much as the national purse is not very stable in respect to the development challenges Uganda faces, it is heartening to note that President Yoweri Museveni has always weighed in and given guidance on matters of remuneration.

But there is also need for the President to go a step further and give policy direction on how to solve the issue of salary disparities, by setting up an institution that oversees remuneration matters across the divide.

For instance, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth to see that an Executive Director of one semi-autonomous government institution gets Shs40 million, while a Permanent Secretary, the topmost Civil Servant and who is almost equal in rank with the ED gets paid a paltry Shs1.6 million a month. Such a scenario should not be allowed to gain currency because it is also one of the recipes for corruption in the public sector!

Lastly, government must prioritise the issue of remuneration in the critical sectors like education and health, and pay the teachers and doctors salaries that are commensurate with their responsibilities.

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