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NOTU, FIDA at odds over poisoned flower farm workers

By Agnes Nantambi

Added 14th November 2016 12:38 PM

NOTU argues that FIDA has gone beyond its mandate by attaching itself to advocating for the rights of workers while siding with one sex

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NOTU chairman general Usher Wilson Owere (L) speaking during the press briefing held at the union’s head office in Ntinda while NOTU secretary general Peter Christopher Werikhe looks on. Photo by Shamim Saad

NOTU argues that FIDA has gone beyond its mandate by attaching itself to advocating for the rights of workers while siding with one sex

The National Organisation of Trade Union (NOTU) has blasted female lawyers under their body FIDA for infringing on their constitutional mandates of protecting the workers' rights.

According to the NOTU general secretary, Christopher Werikhe, FIDA has jumped its boundaries of providing legal aid to women battered by men and transferred it to protecting the workers.

"They deal with problems of men and women and for us it is a constitutional mandate under section 40 to protect workers.

FIDA is a registered organisation from internal affair, and how can they expect us who are under a constitutional obligation to sit with them yet they have no ground” said Werikhe.

FIDA recently came out and accused the employers of Royal Van Zanten flower firm in Gayaza following an incident where some workers were reportedly forced to enter a cold room sprayed with chemicals which affected many and were admitted in different hospitals.

FIDA claimed that majority of the workers affected were women, qualifying them to get immediate attention from the organisation.

But Werikhe while addressing journalists stressed that FIDA has gone beyond its mandate of providing legal aid to people and instead attached itself to advocating for the rights of workers while siding with one sex.

"The issues of workers are not a sex issue but a workers issue that is why they are clearly spelt out in the constitution" he said.

He revealed that the union deals with a million workers who are members yet FIDA is being paid by foreign NGOs to survive and aid women who have had problems with their husbands.

They want you when you get problems with your husbands, those people are not even married, they have had problems with their husbands, and I even wonder about women who go to them for counselling. You are going to be misled, when you get problems with your husbands sit together and solve it" he lamented.

He said that the matter of labour disputes has levels where to report them like the Ministry of Labour or the Industrial Court.

 

"The problem they faced is an issue of workers not women, the mere fact that women were the majority does not qualify FIDA to take over our work,

If these people have been treated and compensated, what will be the next step of FIDA if they are to go court” he asked?

“Recently the President disciplined health workers in Wakiso. What did FIDA do for them? You don't see women from one side and leave others. We have had women in Ebola cases what has it done for them?" Werikhe wondered.

He added that the union has been advocating for the rights and safety of the workers while FIDA was quiet and now he is surprised they are making noise about 100 workers out of 20,000 members.    

The flower firms employ about 20,000 but if their flowers are being marketed wrongly by FIDA it will mean no jobs for Ugandans yet FIDA will not employ them.

Usher Wilson Owere the NOTU chairman general said the union will not allow its work to be hijacked by NGOs due to selfish interests.

"We want to bring it back to industrial relations where the employer, the employee and the government work together to mitigate the challenges.

Where there is a problem like the chemical issue we all investigate but the problem of other players like FIDA coming in to bring their own issues is not very good for this country" he said.

He said the union is currently moving in on all firms and if there is violation of workers’ rights, the law on occupation health and safety will take its course.

"We are going to use this as a key study and eradicate this problem in all flower firms" he said.

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