The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) - Kabale branch has suspended 17 casual labourers until further notice over demanding their unpaid wages.
It comes a few days after about 100 casual labourers complained to the media last week that they haven’t received their wages since March 2019. The most affected labourers include masons and porters who earn Shs 25,000 and 7000 respectively each day. The labourers are entitled to payment at the end of each month, according to the contract they signed with UNRA.
Samuel Mwegamiire one of the affected labourers, says that UNRA owes him Shs 825,000. According to Mwegamiire, he had demanded for his payment in vain as UNRA officials keep chasing him away.
He said he was shocked on Wednesday when he was told by engineer Augustine Kabanda, the UNRA Kabale area manager that he has been sacked until further notice for repeatedly demanding his pay to the extent of revealing his plight to the media.
"When we demanded our wages, the manager sacked us there and then. He told us that those who want money should go home and leave work. Now I have nothing to do, I had worked for 55 days which is worth Shs 825,000." Mwegamiire said.
Joseph Akatukunda, another affected worker wonders why they have been sacked for trying to enforce their right to be paid. Akatukunda accuses Kabanda of tyranny, adding he doesn’t see why they are being sacked for demanding for what rightfully belongs to them.
Patrick Tugumisirize, another affected worker, says they were forced to speak out in the media after pushing for their pay in vain. Tuhumisirize says that they are now stuck and don’t know when they will get their money after being sacked. Jonathan Niwandiinda, another affected worker says he is unhappy to see the Authority backtracking on their contract.
However, Eng Augustine Kabanda says the sacked workers had no reason complaining to the media since it is not the media that will release their pay. He also claims that the workers haven’t been sacked but they have only been suspended until when there is money to be paid to them.
Kabanda explains that UNRA can’t risk continuing working with disgruntled people because they may resort to illegal means such as siphoning fuel for survival.
"They are not sacked but they have been advised to wait for their money because the money is coming. We don’t want people to be in the field when they feel their money has not yet come and yet we’re sending them to work. What will happen next is to steal material. So what we advised them is give us two weeks and when your money comes then you can go back and work…We don’t use people who feel that I work but am not getting paid. What will happen next is siphoning material." Kabanda said.