Striking Kinyara Workers accuse their Bosses of Racism

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Striking workers of Kinyara Sugar Works are protesting the importation of Indian nationals to work at laborers at the Masindi-based factory.

The Kinyara workers went on strike on Tuesday to demand salary increments and better work conditions. Negotiations between the factory management and the employees failed because neither the managers nor the staff could agree on basic discussion points.

Despite the evident strike, Ramadasan Vekatraman the General Manager of the factory insisted there was no industrial action. He said any employees who did not show up for work on Tuesday had merely absconded from duty.

Kinyara, which produces an average of 270 tons of sugar per day has over 3,500 employees, about half of them being on temporary basis.

Luke Okello, the Kinyara Sugar Works representative at the National Union of Plantation Agricultural Workers, said a memorandum listing 21 sticking issues was presented to the factory managers. One of the issues regards the hiring of numerous laborers of Indian descent to work at the factory.

The striking workers say the Indian nationals have not brought any particular expertise into the country. They claim that the Indian nationals are doing jobs that any Ugandan can do.

The workers also claim that their managers, who are also Indians, regularly use abusive language against them and deny them promotion.

Other issues raised in the memorandum are poorly stocked clinics, numerous vacancies and the transportation of workers on uninsured tractors.

Kinyara Sugar Works is run by Rai Holdings, a Kenyan company that bought 51 percent of the establishment from government. Since Rai Holdings took over the factory it has faced strikes by sugarcane outgrowers and factory workers, as well as a backlash from national trade unions over its management policies.