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US President Bush Petitioned to Remove Uganda's AGOA Eligibility

Published date:
Wednesday, 07 September 2005

American labour organisations have petitioned President George Bush's administration to drop Uganda from the AGOA trade arrangement.

The organisations, under the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) and Unite Here, accuse the Ugandan government of failing to take steps to recognise workers rights.

They accuse the management of Apparels Tri Star (U) Ltd and other textile industries in the country that are beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) programme of refusing to recognise trade unions.

Under AGOA selected African countries are allowed to export apparels directly to the US markets.

The American's petition was forwarded to the American Government and copied to the Uganda government and the National Organisation of Trade Unions of Uganda (Notu).

In October 2003, Agoa girls went on strike at the Tri Star Factory at Bugolobi. They complained about poor remuneration and mistreatment. Management later sacked 200 girls.

Tri Star is a Sri Lankan company that set up shop in Uganda in 2003. Government has given it more than $4 million investment subsidies.

The Uganda Textiles, Leather, Garment and Allied Workers Union (UTLGW) and Notu were first to complain to the International Labour solidarity organizations that the management of Apparels Tri Star had refused its workers to join local unions.

UTGLW consequently forwarded the complaint to the International Textile, Garment and Leather workers Federation (ITGLWF) that in turn filed a petition with AFLO-CIO.

"I am writing to lodge a complaint with the committee on freedom of Association on behalf of UTLGW. The case we are bringing to your careful attention concerns refusal of Apparels Tri Star (U) Ltd to recognize the union.

Gender, Labour and Social Development minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru wrote on August 12 to the management of Apparels Tri Star and other textile industries to allow workers to organise and form a trade union.

The letter to the Managing Director of Apparels Tri Star, Mr V Kananathan, a copy of which Daily Monitor saw, warned that failure to have the workers unionised with immediate effect would lead her ministry to invoke the Trade Act compelling them to do so.

Minister Bakoru also asked the Minster of Foreign Affairs Mr Sam Kutesa to inform the US government about the actions that the Uganda government is taking.

The letter was also sent to Phoenix Logistics (U) Ltd and Southern Range Nyanza Ltd.

The American petitioners say Uganda's failure to make continual progress towards establishing internationally recognised workers rights constitutes independent grounds to make it ineligible for Agoa.

"This petition demonstrates the government of Uganda's systematic denial of workers rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Despite repeated criticisms from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the government of Uganda has refused to bring its labour laws into compliance with the International standards on freedom of association and right to organize and bargain collectively" the petition reads in part.

AFLO-CIO says that the government of Uganda has continued to deny its courts and inspectors of resources and the authority they need to enforce those rights that are protected by law.

The petitioners further say that Uganda has allowed employers to violate workers fundamental rights with impunity, sometimes aiding employers in the violation of workers rights.

"This record reveals a deep disrespect for workers' fundamental rights in Uganda, the government indifference and even hostility to workers rights deprives them of their basic right to join and form trade unions in order to bargain with their employers for a fair wage and working conditions" the petitioner said.

The Secretary General of Notu Mr Ongaba Lylmoi Otong told Daily Monitor that talks over the petition are on between the America Government and the Uganda govenment.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Uganda’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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