Workers on duty at UFACO garment factory at Kigali Special Economic Zone (Courtesy photo)
Workers on duty at UFACO garment factory at Kigali Special Economic Zone (Courtesy photo)

The International Labour Organisation is asking East African countries to adopt global labor standards and harmonize laws on migrant labor, The New Times, Rwanda’s leading daily newspaper, reported on Saturday, Jan. 28.

This week, the ILO’s East African office gathered government and labor rights experts in Zanzibar to push for a common agenda on adopting standards as provided by the global workers’ organization.

And as countries work towards free movement of labor, the ILO says a common policy on migrant labor can help protect the workers as well as ensure only the needed labor is available.

Wellington Chibebe, Director of the ILO Country Office for the East African region that includes Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, told an audience that the region must work towards common policy to ensure legal migrant labor is categorized the same way across the region.

“There’s a need to formulate and implement coherent, comprehensive, consistent, and transparent policies in line with international labor standards, for better protection of migrant workers,” he said, according to a speech shared with the media. “Let’s domesticate, ratify, and implement relevant international labor standards, to effectively manage labor migration in a way that is beneficial to all.”

All of the East African Community partner states have passed some labor laws, including banning child labor and trafficking. But not all have minimum wage policies, for example.

In some cases, employers have taken advantage of lack of minimum wage as well as insufficient travel papers for laborers to pay low wages.

The ILO gathered the officials under the Better Regional Migration Management (BRMM) Programme. The meeting was the first high-level labor migration advisory group (LMAG) for the East and Horn of Africa, meant to discuss opportunities and challenges in labor migration.

Jamal Kassim Ali, Minister of State of the President’s office of Zanzibar, said the region should jointly address the effects of labor migration to cover loopholes used by the bad elements.

Countries in the wider eastern Africa region have all been faced with irregular labor policies and this type of gathering was supposed to be a platform to exchange lessons on what works.

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