126 workers of Kasese Cobalt Company Limited have been sacked for going on strike.
The sacking of the workers was announced yesterday evening. They were dismissed from duty three days after they went on strike to protest the alleged breaching of a pay rise deal by the Kasese Cobalt Managers. The workers demanded a 17 percent salary increase, which was not effected as agreed two months ago.
The action came as a surprise to the workers who believed that the disagreement was minor and that the mediation by the Kasese District Labor Officer and the Uganda Mines and Metal Allied Workers Union was successful. However yesterday when they were asked to report at the factory for a meeting and waited for seven hours to be granted entrance into the premises suspicions were raised about a possible fall out.
Late in the evening the Kasese Cobalt General Manager Rob Jennings went outside the gate, accompanied by the companies lawyers and announced that the contracts of all the striking employees were terminated. He said all avenues to find a middle ground with the workers had failed and they could not continue to offer them employment.
Addressing a news conference at Lion's Garden in Kasese town, Vincent Ujambo, the Secretary General of Uganda Mines and Metal Allied Workers Union, said the union is consulting its lawyers on legal redress for the sacked workers. He said the State Minister in charge of labor affairs, Mwesigwa Rukutana, and workers MPs have promised to intervene in the matter.
Following the sacking of the 126 workers, operations at the Kasese Cobalt lime and cobalt production facilities have virtually ground to a halt. It is not clear when new workers will be recruited.
Kasese Cobalt Company won the prestigious Employer of the Year award in 2001, 2002 and 2004. However in recent years the relationship between the workers and the management progressively soured. The anger of the striking employees this week was specifically directed at the Human Resource Manager Andrew Lumbuye whom they accused of failing to protect them or represent their grievances.
Kasese Cobalt Company runs three major operations in the Rwenzori region. It manages the Mubuku III Hydropower Station, the Hima limestone quarry located along the Kasese-Fort Portal road and the Cobalt processing plant that was opened in 1999.