Last Updated on: 30th March 2023, 06:26 pm
Following controversies that have been going around about the welfare of domestic workers in the Gulf region, the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development has signed a new bilateral labour agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This was initiated through the line minister Hon.Betty Amongi on Wednesday 29th March 2023.
According to a statement dated Thursday, March 29, 2023, and signed by the Gender and Labour Minister Betty Amongi Ongom, the Republic of Uganda and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have historically enjoyed a very cordial and warm relationship.
As a result, according to the same statement, over 150,000 Ugandans earn a livelihood from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“The Ugandans living in Saudi Arabia send back about USD700 million annually out of about 1Billion remitted from the entire Gulf cooperation countries,” Minister Amongi added.
Ugandans have been traveling to Saudi Arabia to work under either the Bilateral Labour Agreement on Domestic Workers or the Bilateral Labour Agreement on General Workers.
Still in the statement, whereas the bilateral labour agreement on general workers is still valid, one of the domestic workers expired on February 23, 2023.
It is against this background that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia embarked on negotiations which culminated in the signing of the revised bilateral labour agreement on March 29, 2023.
The new revised agreement was signed under the following mechanisms:
Both parties are obligated to establish mechanisms for deliberating on and resolving emerging issues regarding the welfare and rights of domestic workers (Art 2(2))
Both parties are to regulate and control recruitment costs, deduction of salaries, and paragraph of standard employment contract
Both parties are to take legal measures against employers and recruitment agencies for any violation of laws, rules, and regulations in either country (Art 3(9)
Both parties are to ensure that workers have recourse to competent authorities in cases of contractual disputes (Art 3(8) of BLA)
The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to ensure that employers respect the terms and conditions of the employment contract (Arts 4(5) and (6)
An employee wishing to renew his or her contract must inform the Saudi and Uganda Recruitment agencies and also seek approval from the Embassy of Uganda in Riyadh
The Saudi Arabian online recruitment system (MUSANED) will be integrated with Uganda’s External Employment Management System EEMIS (Art 3(11)
Finally, a joint technical committee for monitoring the implementation of the Bilateral Labour Agreement (BLA) will be constituted within two months of Signing, and by all these terms, according to the Ministry, Uganda is therefore satisfied with the labour dispute settlement mechanisms established by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2022, Ugandans working in Middle East countries asked Kampala to set up a rescue center to help in responding to the cries of some Ugandans who find themselves in a dilemma.
Ugandans, under their association of Ugandans in the United Arab Emirates (AUU), while meeting the Prime Minister in Dubai, said that the government needs to urgently set up a rescue center for emergencies and to save the lives of Ugandans abroad.
In 2021 alone, 87,000 Ugandans traveled to the Middle East under the government’s labour externalization program first mulled in 2005, after putting in place the (Migrant Workers Abroad) Regulations 2005 as a solution to the country’s worsening unemployment crisis.
Over the years, Ugandans have also been traveling to North America and Europe but with their restrictive regimes, the Gulf States became the major destination for workers who travel through recruitment agencies while others are trafficked.