KAMPALA: An unidentified Chinese national was arrested on Wednesday for blocking the Gender, Labour, and Social Development Minister, Betty Among, from inspecting the working conditions of employees at the Namanve-based Sunbelt industries.
The minister was conducting a routine inspection of the working conditions in factories within the Mbalala and Namanve industrial parks in Mukono district. However, at Sunbelt Industries, the Chinese national blocked the minister from accessing some sections of the factory, saying she didn’t have an invitation. This prompted the minister’s security to arrest the Chinese national and hand him over to Namanve police station.
Later, the minister inspected the pump and steel sections in the factory where they had been barred from access and discovered unsanitary conditions.80 per cent of the 100 women working in the plant lack access to clean sanitary facilities. The women use a seven-stance pit latrine, which is almost filled to capacity and emits a heavy stench. The verandah is littered with stagnant, dirty water.
The workers also lack protective gear such as gloves and boots. Despite operating machines that produced severe heat and heavy sound that had the potential to damage the workers’ eardrums, none of the workers were found wearing headgear.
A number of employees told URN on condition of anonymity that their Chinese bosses assault and warn them to arrest anyone complaining about their working conditions. Our efforts to talk to the management didn’t yield results.
URN has since established that the managing director has been offsite for some time. expressed concern that despite working in risky areas, many of the workers lack contracts. She explained that such employees have a hard time pushing for treatment and compensation in the event of injuries.
Peter Okorot, a machine operator at Tian Tang Group, says it is hard to avoid injuries, especially when working in the steel department, and the situation becomes difficult when one sustains a permanent injury.
Once one lacks a working contract, it becomes hard to make certain claims such as treatment and better compensation, yet what is being paid is less to save for personal development, Okorot notes.
Nonetheless, John Van Vredendaal, the Farm Manager of Royal Van Zanten Limited, which packs flowers, advises factory owners to issue their employees working contracts regardless of the payments.
Rose Zikusooka, the managing director of Rose Form Mattresses, appealed to the government to reduce taxes imposed on them to enable them to cater for the welfare of their workers and pay their salaries on time.