Published on allAfrica.com, by Andrew Pacutho, July 22, 2009.
Kampala — Seven girls who were lured into a slave racket in Iraq are missing, officials from the National Organisations for Trade Unions (NOTU) have revealed. NOTU boss Mr Wilson Owere says he received a phone call from a Ugandan called Jessica, who is one of the nine Ugandans rescued by American forces currently residing at the Victoria Base Camp in Baghdad.
Ms Jessica, whose second name could not be established, says she is among a group of over 16 girls who were recruited by The Ugandan Veterans Association to go work in Iraq as secretaries and supermarket attendants but when they arrived they were sold to different people who rushed to ‘buy’ them like ‘goats in a market’ …
… There are thousands of Ugandans working as security guards at American institutions in Iraq, but their wages have been falling each year.
Two years ago, they were earning between $900-1200 (Shs2m to Shs2.8m) per month, but the figure fell to $600 or Shs1.2m last year. Last month, the Ministry of Labour endorsed further cuts to $450 or Shs1m per month. Minister of State for Labour Dr Emmanuel Otaala, in a letter to the recruitment agencies blamed the salary reduction to a ‘dip in the employment market’.
“Many employers are choosing to respond to the economic crisis by taking measures to reduce their labour costs, which include reducing wages or working hours. Others are terminating employees,” the letter said. “It is on this basis that the Government has decided to revise the minimum wage. The reduction is to help Uganda remain competitive in the market.”
Kenyans are reportedly ready to earn $400 per month and took the latest batch of jobs in Camp Echo and Camp Summers in Baghdad.
There over 12,000 Ugandan guards in Iraq. They are recruited through several agencies, including the Uganda Veterans Association. (full text).