By William Madouk
About 70 members of national staff, working for UAP insurance company in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, are on a sit-in strike, causing a business standstill.
The staff members of the insurance company, who are on their fifth day of strike accused the company of unfair treatment.
During their protest at Equatoria Tower entrance, on Friday, representatives of the national staff who spoke to this outlet said the company management locked them outside for staging a peaceful protest.
“We were locked out because we staged a sit-in strike on Monday. What we wanted was for the management to come and give us an assurance that the grievances we submitted to them were resolved amicably,” one group member told No. 1 Citizen Newspaper.
“But being out here means that the management is not willing to listen to us; that’s why they have locked us out of the office,” he added.
He also added that some staff have their belongings locked inside the offices, such as ATM cards, medicines and computers.
However, efforts by the No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper to get a comment from UAP insurance company management over the matter were futile, as offices were locked and known contacts remained unanswered.
According to a group member, the protest started way back last year when they formed an association to address their grievances about payment disparities.
“We felt that as national staff for this company, we are not getting equal treatment like our colleagues who are expatriates; in terms of payment, we are paid a little salary,” he claimed.
“We felt that we were not treated like the staff working for this company in other countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya,” he continued.
He demanded the company management harmonize the salary structure for all company staff.
“What we are fighting for is that for all of us as South Sudanese, it is not only the executive; that’s why they suspended our executive body, which is not right in front of the law.”
He added, “We have a right to fight for our rights. It is within the law, and we are doing it peacefully; we did not destroy any property or attack any person.”
According to them, they had a meeting with the labour advisory council, who promised to solve all the grievances presented by workers, but the UAP management failed to turn up for the meeting.
Again, efforts by No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper to get comment from the Labour Advisory Council, a body mediating the case between the UAP management and staff, were not successful at press time.
Another source who doesn’t want to be named argued that when the position that is supposed to be taken by nationals is advertised, the firm would recruit a foreigner and pay him or her three times the actual salary received by national staff.
“We are not against anybody; we are not against them, but we are against our rights. This thing going on is against human rights. It is not fair,” she said.
She added that they are ready to call off the strike at any time if the management responds to their demands.
Another staff member said, “We want the management to come and address us. Since Monday, they have not appeared to address us. Until yesterday, we were at the ministerial level, at the advisory council, expecting the management to come. But they did not turn up.”
“They don’t want to resolve staff issues or working conditions. Especially when it comes to this, they change the top management,” he added.
He also revealed that some of them have almost 11 or 12 years of operation, but their status remains the same, there is no career growth, and their pay is just below the minimum that cannot sustain their families.
Also, peaceful but energetic staff said, “We had issues like salary harmonization and mistreatment from the workplace, so we tabled our issues and raised them with the management.”
“We expected them to come out and tell us how to resolve the matter. All they have to do is suspend our leaders from the association in the hope of cooling the issue down. But we stood strong, not letting everything, which wanted the world to hear about our voices.”
When the employer and employees disagree, the last resort is to refer or file their case before the Ministry of Labour, which will mediate and guide the duo on how they should resolve the matter lawfully.