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Pay Dispute Rocks Atiak Out Growers Cooperative

AMURU –Rebel war abductees allied to Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society in the Northern district of Amuru are demanding about Shs 8.68 billion in wages for work done for Atiak sugarcane plantation in the last four years.

The 119 complainants, all former abductees of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, said they formed the cooperative in 2015 with 206 members. In 2016, they were contracted by Atiak Sugarcane Out growers Cooperative Society and National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS, to plant sugarcane and supply Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District.

Santo Omony said NAADs officials and Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Out Growers’ Cooperative, promised to pay each member of Dwog Cen Paco Cooperative Society Shs 5 million every year for an acre of sugarcane grown.

Omony said his colleagues; 77 women and 42 men, were given 534 acres to plant. The women were given four acres each and men three acres each. He said each woman is demanding Shs 80m and each man Shs 60m for work done in the last four years. 

Their work, he said, involved weeding, planting sugarcane, weeding and cutting cane for crushing at the sugar factory.

After four years of working on the sugarcane plantation, the laborers say they have not got a single penny.

Omony said they decided to lay down their tools on January 4, 2021.

“We were supposed to start weeding and also cut some sugarcane from the plantation in January but we decided that we could not continue working without pay,” Omony said. 

“I know this money has already accumulated and it can’t be paid at once. But our request is that they should be considerate and give us part payment,” he added.

Concy Aloyo, another member of the group, said they feel discriminated against, given that workers from other districts such as Gulu, Lamwo and Adjumani have been paid.

“We took up this initiative to be self-reliant after losing our land and even family members during the LRA war, and it pains me that our endeavor is not paying us,” Aloyo said.

Aloyo said the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ Cooperative, Joyce Laker, promised in January when they refused to work that she would get back to them after a week, but she didn’t. Aloyo said if the five-year contract expires, it will become difficult for them to get paid.

Simon Ojara, another aggrieved member, said the NAADS coordinator for Northern Uganda, said in July last year  “that our money was already given to the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Out growers’ but we wonder why they have not paid to date.”

Attempts to get a comment from Joyce Laker were futile. She neither picked nor returned our repeated calls.

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