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Nzoia sugarcane cutters protest

More than 500 cane cutters contracted by Nzoia Sugar Factory in Kanduyi Constituency Bungoma County on Tuesday held peaceful protests over unpaid dues.

The enraged workers sang protest songs while holding pangas and machetes outside the factory for more than two hours demanding their five week’s pay.

They said that efforts to have them get paid have hit dead end. The cane cutters are usually paid a rate of Sh 260 per tonnage on Friday of every week.

They accused the firm’s Managing Director (MD), Michael Wanjala Makokha, of taking them round in circles when they ask for their pay.

Daniel Wafula Wanjala, who has been cutting cane at the factory for the past eighteen years, said that they have had to undergo untold sufferings for lack of pay.

“We wake up very early at around 4 am and endure all the cold, wild animals, including snakes and at times the rains get us in the farm making us sick and when we ask for our pay the MD says that the factory is undergoing challenges and we should wait, we are tired of waiting and we want our money, “he said.

Mr. Wafula said that some of them have children in school and they need to pay for fees, buy fertilizer for their maize and attend to basic needs.

He said that they are wondering why the factory is crashing and selling sugar yet they are not being paid.

“We have no one and no union to represent us and address our grievances. That is why we have decided to demonstrate,” he said. He said that the factory does not provide them with working safety gears while on duty.

The MD who addressed them and convinced them to end the strike promised to have them paid. Mr. Makokha said that the factory has employed about 2,200 cane cutters who cut the cane daily.

“We have had a constructive discussion with the workers who cut about 2,500 tonnes of cane per day and we pay them about Sh.3.9 million for the services.

He said that the factory has accumulated an arrears of about two weeks that they are working round the clock to pay.

The MD said that the strike has not affected normal operations at the factory since they still have enough cane that had been cut previously.

“We urge our cane cutters to go back to work and give us ample time as we work round the clock to have them paid, “he said.

Mr. Makokha said that the sugar market has been facing myriad challenges that has affected them but they hope all shall be well soon.

This comes even as cane farmers have been demanding a pay of more than Sh600 million from the factory.

By Roseland Lumwamu

 

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