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Kitgum Market Workers Strike over Delayed Pay, Poor Working Conditions

More than 40 workers led a peaceful procession from the market site under construction in central division and pitched camp outside the Resident District Commissioner’s office.
One of the aggrieved workers make a submission during meeting with kitgum district leaders outside the Resident District Commissioner's office on Saturday. Photo By Julius ocungi

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Casual labourers at Kitgum modern market in Kitgum Municipality on Saturday laid down their tools protesting delayed salary payment and poor working environment.

More than 40 workers led a peaceful procession from the market site under construction in central division and pitched camp outside the Resident District Commissioner’s office.

Construction of the 23 billion shillings market commenced in June this year and is being undertaken by China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd with fund from African Development Bank.

Dick Oloya, one of the casual labourers alleged that workers are always paid late adding that they have now entered the seventh day this month without receiving their payment yet they have obligations to settle.

He also adds that their remuneration is too low compared to the tedious and bulk work they are doing at the site.

For instance, Oloya says they are paid only 7,500 shillings daily but 2,500 shillings is deducted for feeding leaving them with only 5,000 shillings’.

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Oloya notes that workers at the site currently do not have any contractual agreement with the contractor, a position that has left them vulnerable to unfair dismissal from work minus payment.

Another worker who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal says they lack safety gears despite risky works that they are undertaking at the site that exposes them to injuries.

He says workers at the site also don’t have any health insurance adding that whenever one is sick or has sustained injuries, they are the ones who meet cost of treatment from the meagre salaries.

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The aggrieved workers also presented to the district leaders allegations of sexual harassment against female workers, non-payment for overtime work, harassment by security personnel manning the site.

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The Kitgum Municipal Mayor Livings Walter Tooroma who met the casual labourers says his office will investigate the allegations to ensure that they are helped.

The Kitgum resident district commissioner William Komakech noted that an emergency meeting is scheduled for Monday with the Chinese contractor to understand the allegations raised by the workers.

He, however, asked the casual labourers to resume work in order not to frustrate progress on the market construction.

 Construction of the market under the second phase of the Market and Agricultural Trade Improvement (MATIP) program is expected to last two years.