Uganda: Iganga Steel Workers Lay Down Tools

Iganga — Police in Iganga District deployed heavily yesterday at Tembo Steels Uganda Limited following a sit-down strike by workers protesting low pay and poor working conditions. The strike started at about 8am when the workers camped at the factory located at Kasolo village, about 2 kilometres from Iganga town.

Police led by Iganga DPC David Manzi stormed the place to ensure that the strike did not turn violent.

The workers complained that they receive little pay in addition to being mistreated by their bosses. “They give us only Shs1,200 every day for breakfast and lunch. Then at the end of every month (some) workers, especially the porters, are given as little as Shs40,000 per month, which is too little given the high cost of living,” one of the protestors who talked on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised for revealing information told, Daily Monitor, as her colleagues backed her. They said they are not provided safety gear and the few who have, bought them.

Grievances

“We are mistreated by the bosses and those involved in accidents in the factory are neglected. About three people were involved in accidents late last year at the furnace but were not given any money to take care of themselves and when you look at them they are in a bad condition,” one of the workers who could not be identified told a police officer at the factory.

“Given the bad situation here some of the female workers are forced to have sex with the bosses so that they can get some money to buy food and support their families,” said a female worker. The strike prompted the Workers’ Union to intervene and meet the managers to solve the standoff. Unfortunately the top managers were reportedly out of the country and the officials from the union had to engage in a crisis meeting with the heads of department.

After a two-hour long meeting, it was resolved that the plight of the workers should be addressed within three days. “So you should resume work as we sort out the matter,” Mr Vicent Ojiambo, the general secretary Uganda Mines, Metal, Oil, Gas And Allied Workers Union, told the striking workers after the meeting. But the workers vowed not to resume work before their concerns are addressed.

The officer in-charge of criminal investigations at Iganga CPS, Mr Steven Kaija, asked them to always liaise with the relevant authorities to stand for their rights. He said so many workers had suffered accidents in the factory but they have not reported the cases to the police for help. Early last year, workers in the workers went on strike over the same issue but their concerns were reportedly not addressed, prompting yesterday’s strike.
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