Regional trade unions want common work permit formula
The East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) and the East African Employers Organization (EAEO) are pushing for a uniform process in acquiring work permits in the Community.
Meeting in Arusha last week, the trade unionists met during their Second Regional Forum Meeting ahead of the EAC Summit.
Representatives of employees and employers association said a lack of harmonized procedures in the EAC member states is making it difficult for free movement of people, labour and capital .
This provisions is one of the central components provided for in the Common Market Protocol which was signed by all Partner States in 2010.
The meeting also reviewed the challenges that have continued to constrain the free movement of labour across the EAC with the exception of Rwanda.
Rwanda has been quick to implement this provision by making it relatively easy to acquire a work permit and has been encouraging other EAC members to agree on mutual arrangements.
“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,” Ms Caroline Khamati-Mugalla, the EATUC Executive Secretary, said.
“Member states need to agree on the harmonization of working permits within the East African countries, because for example Tanzania charge over $ 2000 for the work permit with the application process taking unnecessarily long, while, Uganda and Kenya charge from $ 1000 to nearly $1900 and up to a month in securing the permits,” she said.
The Executive Director of the Zanzibar Employers Association, Salahi Salim Salahi, pointed out that while hefty work permit fees are meant to protect the domestic labour force from the invasion of alien workers, countries should apply other measures, such as upgrading skills of their workforces to make them “more employable and resilient to labour dumping’,” he said.
In Zanzibar, work permits cost only $300 and as a result, the Islands have been an attractive destination for job seekers 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. Furthermore, documents are issued freely within 48 hours of application.
Oscar Mkude from the Association of Tanzania Employers said it was about time the informal and private sectors were involved in negotiations at the East African level, especially where matters of labour movement and employment are concerned.
The region is also caught up in a mounting crisis centred around youth unemployment as universities continue to churn out new graduates every year. Governments are now encouraging self-employment projects centred around provisions of small loans to start up businesses.