By Charles Lotara,
Juba, South Sudan
May 5, 2021 — Lawmakers within the Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus have slammed nationals over failure to properly interpret the Labour Act.
This comes after a section of disgruntled youths in the region unleashed violence on UN Agencies, NGOs, and private companies for what they called ‘unfair recruitment procedures’.
In their petition to the State Ministry of Labour, Public Service, and Human Resource Development, the youths from Torit claimed that Section 18 of the NGOs Act, 2016, clearly states that potential employers should ensure that not less than 80% of the staff members in all levels of management are South Sudanese.
A few days after the petition, the youths waged violent attacks on NGOs, UN Agencies, and private companies.
But lawmakers in the now-dissolved Transitional National Legislative Assembly say the attacks were motivated by lack of proper interpretation and understanding of the Labour Act.
“Beating aid workers has become too much in our country because it started in Maban, it came to Lakes, Bentiu, crossed to Awiel, and now in Torit because of the misinterpretation of the Labour Act,” Secretary General of Eastern Equatoria State Parliamentary Caucus, Victor Omuho Ohidei said.
“There is a section in the Labour Act which talks about giving 80% of jobs to the locals. TThat does not mean jobs should be given to a specific group of people in that area. The 80% of the jobs are meant for all South Sudanese but not the foreigners,” he added.
Known as ‘Monyomiji’, the group of youths feigned discrimination in work remuneration and recruitment procedures that favour people coming from outside the State.
Last month, they stormed the offices of UNICEF and Health Link, caused havoc, and left many staff injured according to media reports.
One of the employees from Health Link was attacked as he was leaving the office. The Parliamentary Caucus equated the action to ignorance of the law.
Omuho, who is one of the area’s members of the now-dissolved parliament said the state government was following the suspects so that culprits are held to account.
“When the state government left this issue to go down like that without getting the criminals, it will set a very bad name for the local people and the government itself. They must follow those behind the incident,” he said.
He advised that the government should engage NGOs on how to recruit the people in the area as a remedy to evade another chaos.
“The State government took some measures to address the concern of the communities by calling all the Non-Governmental Organizations operating in the State so that they analyze where there is a problem,” he said.
The Labour Act, since its enactment in 2017, has not been strictly observed. South Sudanese employees who work for privately-owned organizations report widespread discrimination characterized by staggering pay gap.
Insider sources working for private companies say a senior local employee earns at most SSP 100k while his or her current counterpart earns from USD 1000 and above, for a job with the same description.
Section 8(1) of the Labour Act says “Every employee shall be entitled to equal remuneration for work of equal value.”
A part of the section warns that any unilateral decision by an employer or group of employers and any provisions of any agreement of whatever nature, which contravenes the provisions of this section shall be deemed null and void.
According to subsection five (5), “The rate of remuneration of employees who have been prejudiced by any discriminatory decision or agreement shall be replaced by the rate of remuneration attributed by virtue of that decision or agreement to the other employees.”
The same section also explicitly states that an employee who has been paid remuneration at less than the rate to which such employee is entitled in keeping with the equal pay rule, shall have the right to recover from the employer the amount by which such employee has been underpaid.
However, this and other critical sections of the Act remained a paperwork four years after its enactment.