Uchumi Supermarket workers demonstrate at the company’s headquarters in Nairobi yesterday. They were demanding to be paid their delayed salaries. [David Njaaga, Standard]
Hundreds of Uchumi Supermarket workers took to the streets yesterday to protest at non-payment of their salaries since May.
According to the workers, the top management has resorted to empty promises and blackmail instead of explaining the situation. This has prompted union staff to complain to the Labour Office.
Chief Executive Julius Kipng’etich blamed the problem on stalled negotiations with banks.
“There has been a delay as a result of negotiating some facilities with financial institutions, which we are about to conclude,” he told journalists.
He said last year’s Sh500 million bailout by the Government had ‘stabilised’ the company but was not sufficient to get it out of trouble.
Workers claimed that the retailer has also defaulted on remitting statutory deductions such as NHIF, making it difficult for them to get access to medical services.
The employees had been promised that their salaries and arrears would be paid by June 30.
Dr Kipng’etich said the retailer, whose 1,300 workforce takes home about Sh58 million every month, will be paid by ‘end of the week’.
“There’s some documentation that was required (by bankers) but was delayed…the final documentation should be complete by tomorrow (today),” he said.
Last evening, the retailer made a return-to-work deal with the workers, promising to clear the May and June arrears by today and Friday next week respectively.
“The above has been as a result of a key stakeholders’ support and is pegged on daily sales,” read the agreement.
Workers claim that last Friday, Uchumi’s top management told them that money was available but could not be processed because it came in after the Central Bank of Kenya’s working hours.
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“Instead of getting money yesterday (Monday) there was an email from the human resource manager to supervisors to do a head count so that the employees who were absent are sacked,” one of the workers told The Standard.
Workers last got paid on June 3, and that was to clear the April arrears. Those in management had to wait until June 10.
While union employees received their January salaries on February 10, the management had to wait until the end of the month.