Kinyara Sugar limited has lost more than Shs29 billion in three days after the factory closed down last Wednesday due to a strike by non-permanent workers.
The factory could not continue operating after about 800 employees laid down their tools last Tuesday protesting poor working conditions and low pay.
Kinyara produces an average of 4,000 tons of sugar per day and each ton costs about Shs2,440,000 at factory price. This means that the company has made a revenue loss of about Shs29.2 billion in only three days.
The factory also earns revenue from the sale of molasses, electricity that Kinyara supplies to the national grid and paying permanent staff redundant departments.
The management of Kinyara Sugar Limited declined to comment on the strike and the losses incurred.
But Masindi District secretary for production and natural resources John Bagada said government’s intervention had contained the situation.
“There are ongoing talks between the government and Kinyara, I think the workers issues will be addressed,” Mr Bagada said.
The strike, which started as a peaceful demonstration, ended up being violent when the striking workers reportedly set ablaze an unspecified number of hectares of sugarcane adjacent Kinyara Sugar Factory.
The situation worsened last Thursday when heavily armed police were deployed and fired tear gas at the striking workers.
The chairperson of Masindi Sugarcane Association Limited – an umbrella organisation for Kinyara outgrowers – Mr Robert Atugonza, said the management of Kinyara should handle the strike with urgency.
“Our sugarcane is over growing,” Mr Atugonza said adding that some farmers have sugarcane of 30 months yet it is supposed to be harvested at 18 months.
The Masindi Resident District Commissioner, Ms Martha Asiimwe, declined to comment on the strike. “Everybody has his own task, I have no comment about the strike,” Ms Asiimwe said.
Cause of strike
The striking workers are demanding an increment in their pay from Shs5,500 to shs10,000 per task, formal employment contract and an employment number which will help them access sugar coupon, medical services at Kinyara health centre and other employment benefits.
“We do a lot of work yet we are paid very little. We want our pay increased,” Mr Alfred Otim, one of the workers, said.
He said he has spent a year working at the factory but his employment terms have never been formalised and he misses many company benefits.