24 November 2017

Uganda: Umeme Workers Demand Probe Into Millions to Workers Union

Members of the Uganda Electricity and Allied Workers Union (UEAWU) have accused the executive committee of failure to provide the union's financial standing for over five years.

In a petition before the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, they blame the union's secretariat for failure to organize annual general meetings or a single delegates' conference since 2012. UEAWU membership includes employees from different companies including Umeme, Eskom Uganda Limited and Uganda Electricity Transition Company Limited (UETCL), among others.

The September 11, 2017 letter is copied to the head of human resource, Umeme limited, secretary general of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), UEAWU general secretary and the director of industrial labour relations, which falls under the ambit of the Labour ministry.

"The secretariat has failed to check gross mismanagement and embezzlement of the union's funds coupled with lack of accountability. Absence of annual delegates conferences implies that all the budgets have not been approved by the supreme body...the account and statement are never prepared and kept in accordance with generally acceptable financial regulations and are hardly audited," reads part of the petition.

"We the undersigned [in this petition] demand for an investigation in respect of the gross mismanagement of the unions' funds and property, an interim committee that shall be mandated to restore confidence in existing members and also woo back those who exited."

The revelation puts NOTU under close scrutiny over its reluctance to take action because UEAWU is one of its 20 labour affiliates. NOTU coordinates and supervises the activities of labour unions. In one of the correspondences seen by The Observer, Joseph Ndawula, the acting UEAWU national treasurer, told members the committee is doing its best with auditors to conclude audit of books from 2011 to 2017.

"Accounts concluded are 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2014 is in final stages," Ndawula said.

From Umeme alone, for example, documents show that UEAWU receives about Shs 15 million in monthly remittances. This means that over the past five years without financial records, Umeme employees estimate the figure to be about Shs 1 billion unaccounted for by UEAWU.


In their letter to Umeme managing director, Selestino Babungi, the unionized staff of Umeme, requested that the monthly deductions from their earnings be suspended until investigation into the conduct of the secretariat is completed.

"We hereby request Umeme management to immediately stop remitting out monthly union subscription to UEAWU until our petition has been resolved," the letter reads in part.

One of the petitioners, Cedrick Sserubiri, said their request to suspend monthly remittances was not granted by Umeme.

"They have never stopped remitting the monthly subscription to the union. They brought up a lot of legal issues that they have a contract with the union," he said.

However, Sandor Walusimbi, Umeme spokesman, remained cagey about the situation but said Umeme had communicated to the aggrieved workers.

Sam Lyomoki, a Workers MP, said Umeme can't decline a request from workers to suspend monthly remittance because they should first get consent from workers before remitting their money to the union.

"The workers can actually go to court if they (Umeme) fail to grant their request," he said.

When The Observer reached out to Wilson Owere, the NOTU chairman, he said there is need for an urgent meeting to solve the impasse.

"I have not seen this letter from the trade union. But in such a circumstance, we would urgently call the secretary general to a meeting and we try to arbitrate between the workers complaining," he said.



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