Thousands of flower firm workers in Entebbe went on strike on Friday, over poor pay. Two thousand angry workers of Wagagai, first blocked all roads within the firm leading to green houses where the flowers are grown before starting their sit-down strike that prompted their managers to call police, which fired teargas to disperse them.
Uganda Horticultural and Allied Workers Union secretary Joseph Walakira shortly arrived to address the workers, but the workers hurled insults at him, saying the Union has not helped them, and they almost beat him up.
“We earn Shs60,000 a month but management deducts Shs7,769 for NSSF, Shs 2,589 as Pay As You Earn and Shs5,000 for treatment and union fees, leaving us with almost nothing,” Ms Nusula Nassimbwa, a flower harvester, told Sunday Monitor.
She said that they work long hours, from 7am to 7pm but they are not paid overtime despite having a labour union that always signs agreements to improve workers’ rights. She said they pass through Kayirira Forest when going to work and find men who sometimes rape female workers, but their management has kept a deaf ear to their plight.
“They only thank us by calling us uneducated, which hurts us,” she added.
Mr Yusuf Ssegawa, a worker, said that their union signed an agreement of increasing their pay but it is yet to be effected. “Government should speed up putting a minimum wage for foreign investors hiring Ugandan labour force to respect them,” he said.
He said they have old uniforms making chemicals sprayed on flowers directly get to their bodies, and people in the cold rooms are not given protective gear which, as a result, has had adverse effects on their bodies. Efforts to get a comment from the firm managers were fruitless as they locked themselves up in offices and refused to talk to the press.