- Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0838 EAT on Friday 29 April 2022.
An unidentified Chinese national was on Wednesday arrested for blocking the Gender, Labour and Social Development minister, Betty Among from inspecting the working conditions of employees at the Namanve based Sunbelt Industries Ltd.
The minister was conducting a routine inspection of the working conditions in factories within Mbalala and Namanve industrial parks in Mukono district. However, at Sunbelt, 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 section in the factory where they had been blocked from accessing and found poor hygienic 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 strong stench while the verandah is littered with stagnant dirty water.
The workers also lack protective gear such as gloves and boots. None of the workers was found wearing headgear despite operating machines, which produce severe heat and heavy sound that has the potential of damaging the worker’s eardrums.
A number of employees told URN on condition of anonymity that their Chinese bosses assault and threaten to arrest whoever complaints about their working conditions. Our efforts to talk to the management didn’t yield results.
We have since established that the managing director has been offsite for some time. Among expressed concern that despite working in risky areas many of the workers lack contracts. She explained that such employees get a hard time pushing for treatment and compensation in case 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 hard 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.