Arnout de Koster Country manager View profile





The title of this newsflash may be incomprehensible for many. Non Dutch readers may not understand the notion “ polder”. Dutch readers may wonder what DECP and FNV have been sponsoring and why.

Let’s clarify.

Already for a few years, DECP and Mondiaal FNV, which are both active in Uganda with their counterparts (the trade union NOTU and the Federation of Uganda Employers FUE ), have been focussing part of their agenda on promoting social dialogue directly between the trade unions and the employers. Why? Social dialogue on a bipartite basis has been very successful in other countries to bring a joint message to governments and or to try to solve -in autonomy- a number of issues between the social partners. In the Netherlands, they would call it a move to a more intense poldermodel. This notion, which interestingly enough gained also wide acceptance in the English language (see poldermodel under Wikipedia) is deducted  from the verb “polderen”. Literally it means to work together to keep low grounds, threatened by water, dry. Cooperation for a common good, is in a nutshell what social dialogue is all about.  

Back to Uganda. In 2019 a formal meeting already attempted to conclude a general Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between both parties to formalise their relations and the agenda for the coming years. Now, just before the outbreak of the Corona crisis in Uganda, a new attempt was successful and led to the conclusion of a formal MOU. Both meetings were sponsored by the Dutch social partners DECP and FNV.

This MOU is a sort of general framework in which the bipartite relations are solemnly anchored, and which also determines the future agenda of the bipartite approach. FUE and NOTU make it an ambitious one. The first focus is on the skills mismatch and measures-proposals to solve the skills gap for young unemployed and also deals with life-long learning. Regarding minimum wages: this is an evergreen in Uganda labour relations where the minimum wage is not existing. The partners engage to make proposals for a joint approach. Other themes: alternative dispute resolutions; social protection extension; and employment opportunities for youngsters.

Will it change a lot in the short term? It is correct that the tradition of good relations which existed already before, was the real basis for this MOU, but its formalisation is supportive of the will of both parties to go now beyond good intentions and trust relations, and this may hence be a game changer. The advent of this MOU just before the outbreak of Covid 19 is also not a full coincidence either: the awareness amongst social partners that in a heavy storm a cooperative approach is essential to keep the ship floating, came fortunately just before the Corona storm hit Uganda. We see similar tendencies in other DECP partner countries, such as Ghana, Kenya and Nepal, just to mention a few.

In Uganda, the MOU can be a source of reference and a symbol to accentuate and endeavour a common approach when issues get difficult and need cooperation. It also should be hoped that the government will enthusiastically accept the input and the support of the social partners. Many countries show how much the real economic and social actors can add value to the design, the implementation  and the legitimacy of social and economic policies to be set up to deal with crises, such as the impact of Covid. We see no reasons why Uganda would be a different case.

DECP and FNV intend to follow up closely, and to support the actions which our Uganda partners will undertake to give real life to the MOU.

The annexed small video message from the CEO of the employers federation FUE, Mr Douglas Opio, shows in any case great enthusiasm to start and to give it strong attention.  

Watch the video: 

Social partners in Uganda sign the Memorandum of Understanding. (Source; Mondiaal FNV)