Uganda: Police Arrest Striking Workers at SCOUL

On 14 November 2007 about 5000 workers in the harvesting and weeding of cane sections went on strike at the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd. (SCOUL). The workers were demanding the following:
1. Salary increase.
2. Excessive task where a worker should harvest 1.5 tonnes as a task and he harvests 1.2 tonnes management takes away the harvested canes, and does not pay the worker.
3. Corruption in the harvesting and weeding section where workers pay about 20 dollars to renew their contract.
4. Abusive language by Managers.
5. The lower-level management undermines the roles of shop-stewards in their respective workplaces.
6. Deductions on workers’ salaries for minor offences without their consent.
7. Insufficient food given to them.
8. Violation of collective agreements and labour laws by management.
9. Unfair termination of services.
10. Poor accommodation and sanitation.
11. Delay in solving grievance cases.
12. Poor system of transporting workers from one section to another, which resulted in fatal accident where 4 workers and several others got serious injuries.
13. Workers’ complains of racism on the part of management.
14. Obsolete terms and condition of services.
The union, NUPAW, communicated these demands to management in several occasions, but management turned down requests to deal with the issues. The workers started a peaceful strike and also demanded the dismissal of the headman on charges of corruption, but management replied by threatening workers with dismissals that triggered a violent response by the workers, which involved some property damages and some cane fields were set on fire. Police reacted by arresting anyone found on site, and beating and mistreating workers, says NUPAW. Seventy-nine workers were charged, and several of them, while under custody, were denied treatment until the union intervened and provided them with food and first aid care. The union has also retained the services of a lawyer, and by 28 November seven workers had been released, while the union is in the process of securing bail for the rest.
(Based on a report by Joram Pajobo, NUPAW-Uganda.)

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