Police at ATGWU offices, Kampala

Police at ATGWU offices, Kampala

On 10 June the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) in Uganda, which is the project mentor union for East Africa, succeeded in completing its elections to elect officials to represent some 30,000 members in informal workers’ associations. These elections took place without police disruption or presence after a public pledge by the inspector general of police on Sunday 7 June that he would not allow the force to operate outside the law.

This pledge follows police invasions of the ATGWU head office in Kampala on 22 May and 5 June which disrupted the union’s previous attempts to elect officials to represent informal members.

The union told the ITF that three times the number of workers attended the meeting than had done so at previous election gatherings, and that on the same day, the inspector general of police had invited the union in for talks and welcomed a delegation led by ATGWU chair Usher Wilson Owere.

The police chief had called the public meeting on Sunday 7 June in response to the announcement of a strike due be held on 8 June by the ATGWU following police invasions of its Kampala head office.

He apologised to the crowd of several hundred minibus drivers in and around Kampala mobilised by the ATGWU, and the union agreed to call off the strike and hold another meeting this week to test whether his pledge held true. Union members also used the event to hand out ITF/FNV wristbands saying in Swahili ‘without unions employment is poverty itself – Join Now’.

ITF Africa regional secretary Joe Katende said: “It would seem that 30,000 informal workers joining the union had given the authorities a fright but this repression was illegal and should not have happened, given the already existing good relations.

“We are pleased that the inspector general of police has kept to his word and allowed the elections to proceed uninterrupted. We hope this signals continued good relations between the police and the ATGWU.”

This post is an adapted version of an article orinally posted on the ITF Global wesbite on 11 June 2015.