About 600 employees of Kinyara Sugar Works have gone on strike over alleged poor working conditions at the factory.
The sugarcane cutters and other casual labourers accused their bosses of ignoring their demands for better healthcare, wages and formalising their contracts.
“They went on strike demanding recognition as permanent workers. They demanded that their wages be revised upwards and also wanted to be insured,” the Midwestern regional police commander, Mr Charles Ssebambulidde, said on Wednesday.
The strike comes barely two weeks after 12 workers of the company died in a road accident on Masindi-Biiso-Wanseko road.
The sit-down strike which reportedly started on Monday, turned violent on Wednesday as workers accused the factory of being reluctant to address their concerns.
The workers blocked the Kinyara-Kabango road and set part of the sugarcane plantation on fire.
Police estimated the burnt cane to be about four hectares.
“They burnt some sugarcane but we deployed in the area to restore calm. We also addressed them and urged them to use lawful means to seek solutions to their grievances” Mr Ssebambulidde said.
Kinyara sugar factory administrators were reluctant to discuss the strike with this newspaper.
The factory’s public relations officer, Mr Jude Mubuuke, flatly refused to comment.
Kinyara Sugar Works general manager Ramadasan Vekatraman told this newspaper on Thursday that he was willing to discuss the matter next week.
“Text me your names and I will call you and we meet when I am in Kampala next week,” he said by telephone and hang up.
Multiple sources at the factory said there was a crisis meeting on Wednesday between the administrators, security officials and the striking workers to defuse the tension.
“Company officials said they have seen the concern of the workers and asked them to be patient since they have two months to end the season and temporarily close the factory for maintenance,” Mr Ssebambulidde, who attended the meeting, told Sunday Monitor.
After formalising their contracts, the workers want the factory to insure them and remit their National Social Security Fund (NSSF) savings.
Kinyara Sugar Works factory is about 20km west of Masindi Town. It is one of Uganda’s largest manufacturers of sugar, producing about 110,000 metric tonnes annually. It is run by Rai Group, a Mauritius-based investment group which owns 70 per cent shares.