Uganda’s Horticultural, Industrial, Service Providers and Allied Workers’ Union (UHISPAWU) is fighting to protect thousands of workers on flower farms from falling into poverty and hunger as a consequence of the overnight collapse of the export market. Sales of cut flowers, the bulk of which are exported to Europe for auction, have declined by up to 90 percent and there are no government protection programs for workers in agriculture who lose their jobs. Over 4,000 workers are at home with no income or other support. Workers paid a monthly wage are excluded from government food support and cannot access their pension savings.
Negotiations for a new collective agreement were suspended in March with the arrival of the coronavirus. Union representatives have been travelling constantly from farm to farm, urging growers to maintain staff through work sharing schemes and implement strict safety protocols, including physical distancing, provision of protective equipment, accessible soap and water in all work areas and union access to health and safety inspection at all times. The union is calling for government action to support workers devastated by the consequences of the pandemic.