More than 200 delegates of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU), sitting at a conference this week in Mukono, adopted a new draft unitary constitution that embraces 12 more members. Eleven of those have returned to the NOTU fold from the former breakaway COFTU – the Confederation of Free Trade Unions. NOTU affiliate membership is now 32.
The meeting was witnessed by representatives of the international trade union organizations, that included: the International Labour Organization (ILO); the Brussels-based, International Trade Unions Congress (ITUC); the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway); the Danish Council of Trade Unions (LO/FTF); and, the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).
Addressing the delegates, ILO’s, Dr. Muhammad Mwamadzingo, hailed NOTU’s expansion and the new-found unity, as “a success story”. He noted that NOTU had initially informed the ILO that the debate of the merger draft constitution would involve 22 additional unions, however, with the new 12, NOTU had recorded a 76% achievement. He revealed that there had been seven trade union unity stories in Africa, higher than any other continent.
Mwamadzingo added that with this, Uganda ranks high; and that ILO had advanced a country programme objective for Uganda to ensure freedom of association in Uganda. “Unity is not an option; it is the only way of emancipating the workers of Uganda,” he intoned. ITUC’s Wilton Kibembe, agreed, saying that for the workers, unity is an effective tool that will bring co-operation useful for the development of the workers.
In an earlier opening address and while summing up the achievements of the conference, NOTU’s Chairman General, Usher Wilson Owere, said that for Ugandan workers, “The only way for survival in the country is unity so as to bargain and improve service delivery to the members.” He described NOTU’s year-long road, bargaining with Government and other organizations for the achievement of a united NOTU.
Owere said that the purpose of promulgating the new draft constitution is to focus on its functions to plan and “ensure the accommodation of the brothers and sisters”. It is a negotiated merger until 2018 when there will be a “quinquennial [5-yearly] conference” for the election of the new union office bearers.
NOTU Secretary General, Peter Werikhe, said that with the adoption of the new draft-constitution, NOTU membership now hits the more than half a million-members’ mark. He said that with this expanded membership, the union comes up with added demands; and that is why there had been the need for the NOTU Secretarial to come up with the draft amendments to the 2012 NOTU constitution.
The newly-approved draft constitution which will come with amendments has 13 Articles with three Annexes. The amendments come in with especially three articles that were contentious. Article 4; on membership and subscriptions, demanded extra sections on the rights and obligations of the affiliates. Article 6; on the governance structure, drew criticism because it was short on the inclusion of the members with disabilities and the informal economy; which were on a section of the Article 7, which deals with membership of the executive board.
However, the most contentious, was the Section 3 of Article 7, which deals with the composition of the annual delegates conference. In what nearly brought about the derailment of the conference, UNATU – the Uganda National Teachers Union – delegates threatened a walk-out, when there was a heated debate about the criteria of admitting “proportional numbers of paid-up” members.
UNATU has the biggest membership of all affiliates with 160,000 members nationwide.