Kyabandara SACCO staff members have petitioned the labour officer in Sheema district, accusing the SACCO’s management of defaulting on their monthly arrears and failing to remit their National Social Security Fund (NSSF) savings despite deducting the same from their salaries.
Registered in 2003, Kyabandara SACCO currently boasts about 2500 members, a turnover of 1000 million and operates three branches in Kashari, Kanekye and an outreach in Bujaga trading centre.
Trouble started at the renowned SACCO early this month when two staff members- Esther Atukwatse, the organisation’s Cashier, and Aggrey Natamba, a Loans Officer – went to the district’s labour office over their unpaid April and May 2020 salary arrears.
The workers’ action seems to have borne some fruit, as Atukwatse reveals that their April and May arrears were paid the same day they reported their grievances to the district labour office.
“I was demanding Shs 600,000, and it was all was paid the day we went to the labour officer, meaning that had we not seen these officials at the district, we were on the verge of losing our salary,” Atukwatse asserts.
NSSF not remitted
In their complaint to the labour office, the two employees also alleged that the SACCO’s General Manager, Julius Muhairwe, had failed to remit their NSSF contribution despite regularly deducting a part of their monthly pay ostensibly for that purpose.
Speaking to theCooperator, Atukwatse said that Muhairwe started deducting Shs 11,000 from her salary right from August 2019 claiming that it was to cover the NSSF subscription fee, and yet she denies ever being a member of the fund.
“He started by deducting Shs 11,000 from my salary and 12,500 from another workmate [Natamba] who is the loans officer. Meanwhile, Natamba had earlier joined NSSF but the deducted Shs 12,500 was not going to his account; we want to know why he was doing that,” says Atukwatse.
She says that currently Shs 15,000 is being deducted out of their Shs 300,000 monthly salary.
However, Kyabandara SACCO’s General Manager, Julius Muhairwe insists that there is no crisis at the SACCO. Rather, he blamed the ‘confusion’ on two recently recruited staff disgruntled at having been temporarily laid off during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
“I don’t understand some of our workers,” he said. “Members are withdrawing their money as usual but we are not making recoveries on loans, which makes it hard to retain all the staff. You might keep making losses when actually they are not working.”
“Even if you send the loans officer to recover a loan from the client, you are just wasting resources because members are not willing to pay back. That is why we decided to lay off some of the staff. Those who never understood what was going on then decided to run to the district labour officer,” he explained.
The SACCO chairperson Asaph Ahimbisibwe also attributed the confusion to COVID-19.
“When you tell a member of staff to wait and see how things will go, he then develops anger and acts unruly like some of those staff members who had just started working with us. How could they access NSSF when they had just joined us?” he asked.
Despite receiving some relief, Atukwatse says she and colleague Aggrey Natamba are afraid of losing their jobs, since they are yet to receive appointment letters affirming their employment at the SACCO.
“We were asked to stop working on June 2, 2020 and we are now at home, but by look of things we might not be called back because we have never received our appointment letters since 2018. We are wondering to why they were withheld,” she says.
Allan Buhanda, the District Commercial Officer, Sheema district, confirmed knowledge of the staff disputes at Kyabandara SACCO.
“They allegedly dismissed two staff members and refused to clear their arrears and have been deducting NSSF money without remitting it. These two went to the labour officer and when we called Kyabandara officials they paid their arrears and promised to issue them their appointment letters,” he said.
Buhanda added that he has on several occasions received complaints regarding salary arrears from employees of Kyabandara SACCO staff, adding that he has brought it to the attention of the district’s auditors to investigate possible problems may be with the SACCO’s administration.
“We have asked the auditors to come in and audit this SACCO because it seems something fishy is going on which puts members’ savings at risk,” Buhanda said.
Responding to accusations of outstanding salary arrears at the SACCO, Kyabandara SACCO’s Chairperson Ahimbisibwe maintains that all staff salaries were cleared on time.
“We paid all their money, and nobody is demanding us anything [sic]. Actualy, there are only two workers whom we laid off temporarily hoping that by the beginning of July things would have normalized and they would start working as usual,” he said.
Meanwhile, the SACCO’s General Manager, Julius Muhairwe alleges that the Sheema District Commercial Officer, Allan Buhanda is biased against Kyabandara SACCO.
“There is a time when we had a general meeting and he dismissed one of our treasurers and since then he has not been on good terms with our financial institution.”