Anti-riot Police in Jinja on Tuesday fired teargas and rubber bullets in the air to disperse angry workers at Nile Agro Industries Limited.
The over 500 workers at the Jinja-based cooking oil and soap Industry who started with a sit down strike later turned violent, forcing police to fire tear gas to disperse them.
Police was under the command of Jonathan Musinguzi, the Jinja district Police Commander, who was compelled to intervene into the matter when the workers blocked the road leading to Walukuba and threw stones at vehicles which were being driven by Indian nationals.
Police battled them for close to thirty minutes as some were seen scampering for dear life and reaching out for water to wash their faces from the tear-gas irritation.
The workers rioted after the factory management pinned up notices showing changes in dates they are expected to get their salary advances without consulting them.
Three notices were pinned and one read, “With effect from today, mid-month salary advance will be paid on the 20th of every month and monthly salary on the 5th of every month.”
“The second one read: “With effect from 16/4/2012, salary will be calculated purely on the basis of electronic punching system. Anyone who does not punch his card will be treated absent for that day.”
Then the third notice read thus: “Any casual employee who is present for three days in a week will not be paid salary and any employee absent more than six days in a month will not be allowed to continue in the next month.”
This sparked off the strike as workers argued that the factory management would have consulted them or their head of departments before making the changes.
During their moment of frustration, the employees exposed the rot in the factory as they narrated the pain in which they go through at the factory including sustaining major injuries without protective gear while at work yet with no treatment from the management.
Workers said the factory was dirty and filled with smelly soap waste matter all over.
They say their supervisors who are Indians inflict harsh conditions onto them on the job yet they make them work long hours with peanut pay. They requested management to revise the monthly salary given to them with a rise.
One of the drivers in the factory said if a factory vehicle develops any mechanical condition like a tyre bursting while in transit of taking factory products to distant destinations, they are forced to foot the repair bills through unnecessary deductions made on their salaries without their notice.
“I am a long distance driver of a factory FUSO truck [magulu kumi] and at one time it developed mechanical conditions in the factory before setting off but management told me to pay for mechanical bills since I was responsible and it deducts on my salary in order to pay for the repair bills which were totaled up to 1.75m,” one of the workers who preferred anonymity was clearly angry.
Workers further expressed over 25 serious issues of their grievances to the Group Corporate Manager of Nile Agro, Francis Baganzi who was in company of the Jinja DPC, Musinguzi.
The workers also accused the managing director, Morganbhai Patel of arrogance and complacency in dealing with their issues.