The International Labour Organisation is asking East African countries to adopt global labour standards and harmonise laws on migrant labour.
This week, the ILO’s East African office gathered government and labour rights experts in Zanzibar to push for a common agenda on adopting labour standards as provided by the global workers’ organisation.
And as countries in the neighbourhood work towards free movement of labour, the ILO says a common policy on migrant labour can help protect the workers as well as ensure only the needed labour is available.
Mr Wellington Chibebe, Director, 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 labour is categorised the same way across the region.
“There’s a need to formulate and implement coherent, comprehensive, consistent, and transparent policies in line with international labour 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 labour standards, to effectively manage labour migration in a way that is beneficial to all.”
All of the East African Community member states have passed some labour laws, including banning child labour 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 labourers to pay low wages.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the ILO gathered the officials under the Better Regional Migration Management (BRMM) Programme. The meeting was the first high-level labour migration advisory group (LMAG) for the East and Horn of Africa, meant to discuss opportunities and challenges on labour migration.
Jamal Kassim Ali, Minister of State of the President’s office of Zanzibar, said the region should jointly address the effects of labour migration to cover loopholes used by the bad elements.
Countries in the wider eastern Africa region have all been faced with irregular labour policies and this type of gathering was supposed to be a platform to exchange lessons on what works.
“Kenya hopes to benefit from this programme, which aims to strengthen the capacities of East and Horn of Africa to govern labour migration by implementing evidence-based policies, improving the qualifications and skills of migrant workers, and engaging social partners,” said a statement from the National Employment Authority.
Kenya’s Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour Geoffrey Kaituko informed the meeting that Kenya will soon launch its labour migration policy.
The meeting included state officials, labour union representatives and employers’ organisations from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Djibouti, as well as representatives from regional blocs IGAD and the EAC, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Africa, the International Organisation of Employers and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office.