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Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

Labour unions are organisations of workers created by workers to represent their rights and interests. The Constitution of Uganda provides for freedom of association while  Labor Unions Act allows the workers to establish and join unions. 

Workers are allowed to participate in union activities outside working hours. Every worker has a right to form or join a trade union of his or her choice for the promotion and protection of his or her economic and social interests; to collective bargaining and representation; and to withdraw his or her labour according to law.

Union members are free to elect their representatives and formulate their work program. They may draw up their own statutes and administrative regulations, as long as these are not contrary to laws in effect and public order.

The unions must get registered with the Ministry by filing 3 copies of their statutes; titles, names, ages, addresses and occupations of its officers; number of members; and a revenue stamp of an amount prescribed by the Minister. A trade union is considered registered after the registrar register a trade union and issue a certificate of registration. The registration process must be done within 90 days from the date of submission of the application.

An employer is not allowed to interfere in the formation or administration of a registered trade union and to support a union that is under the control of the employer or an employer's organization. Employer may deduct union dues from the wages of the members only after their written consent. Discriminatory behavior is prohibited for the employer on the basis of union affiliation or participation in union activities. An employer who does not abide by these rules and regulations commits an offence and is liable to a fine up to 96 currency points or imprisonment up to four years or both. In case of a continued offence, the employer is liable to a fine up to two currency points for every day or part of a day during which the offence continues.

Source: §29 & 40 of the Constitution of Uganda 1995 (revised in 2005); §2-18 of the Labour Union Act 2006

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

The Constitution of Uganda and the Labor Unions Act allow workers to bargain collectively through their representatives.

Collective agreement is a written agreement relating to the terms and conditions of employment concluded between one or more labour unions and one or more employers, or between one or more labour unions and one or more employer's organisation.

The terms of collective agreement must be concluded in writing and contain a reference to the manner and date when it may be reviewed. A copy of collective agreement and any amendment/variation made to the agreement must get registered with a Labour officer. Even if it is not registered, it remains enforceable between the parties to the agreement. Signed agreement must be lodged with the Registrar of Labour Unions within 28 days from the date the agreement is made.

A person who acts against these provisions commits an offence and is liable to a fine up to 24 currency points or imprisonment up to one year or both.

The terms of registered collective agreement are incorporated in the employment contract of the workers.

Source: §40 of the Constitution of Uganda 1995 (revised in 2005); §3 of the Labour Union Act 2006,  §3 &38-39 of the Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act 2006

Right to Strike

Right to strike is recognized by Constitution however this right is strictly regulated.

According to the Labour Union Act, strike means to 'go slow' and 'a sit down' by a body of persons employed and acting in combination or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common understanding, of any number of persons employed to continue to work for an employer in consequence of a dispute, done as a means of compelling the employer, or to aid other workers, to accept or not to accept terms or conditions affecting the employment.

Worker have the right to organise themselves in any labour union and may withdraw their labour and take industrial action. There is a compulsory 30-day mediation period before lawful strike action may be taken.

Strikers must not threaten non-strikers. Strikers cannot stop other employees who want to go to work during a strike from doing so. Ugandan law maintains a list of essential services where strike action is prohibited without written notice given to the employer, not earlier than 14 days and not later than 22 days from the intended strike. The Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act requires employers not to take civil action against the strikers.

Strike is considered illegal if it is not peaceful and does not comply with the provisions of labour law. It is illegal to start strike in order to force an employer to revise a CBA or arbitral award which is still in force.

A person that induces a strike where it has been declared unlawful by the Labour Officer commits an offence and is liable to a fine up to 24 currency points or imprisonment up to 1 years or both.

Source: §40 of the Constitution of Uganda 1995 (revised in 2005); §3 of the Labour Union Act 2006; §8 of the Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act 2006

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • The Employment Act, 2006
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