95 workers of Uchumi, Gulu branch were today morning left stranded after they found their operating premises closed by the supermarket management.
The worried employees are now demanding for their two months' salary arrears with uncertainty looming large after the earlier closure of the Nateete, Kabalagala branches and most recently the Garden City branch. Yesterday court bailiffs raided the main branch at Garden City in an attempt to recover Shs 185m owed to animal products supplier UGACHIK.
The Gulu branch workers are also demanding remittances of their social fund contributions to NSSF of the past one year. Jimmy Okwera, the chairman Uchumi workers Union in Gulu says that they were told by management that the branch was closed over suppliers which he says they find very suspicious.
"Now what is happening, Kabalagala as a branch has been closed, Nateete has been closed. Now we hear Garden City is also closed. The same style they closed those branches is the same style they are bringing here - which for us we are not going to accept", he said.
"What we want, is, they pay us our salaries for the past 2 months and then they pay us our termination benefits. That is what we want. We can’t cause chaos, we are people who understand. We know this is a business entity [but] they should [also] understand and meet our demands. Let them close peacefully. The main problem is the head office is not communicating with us. They are doing their things quietly. Even the process they used for closing these other branches was just quietly. You realise the next morning the branch has been closed”
The manager of the Gulu branch, Robina Olobo however says that the supermarket is not closed and that they were only solving internal problems. She claims they only temporarily closed because of fears that suppliers/court bailiffs would come in to destabilize the supermarket like they did at Garden City yesterday.
Edwin Atukunda, the OC Gulu Police station met the aggrieved workers, and asked them to be peaceful in seeking solutions.
It is alleged that the Gulu branch has not paid rent for several months. Since the beginning of the year, the supermarket has been struggling with supplies with customers complaining of finding many empty shelves and sections.
New Uchumi CEO Julius Kipngetich was recently quoted saying that they have decided to review all the branches and concentrate on the performing ones while the ones not performing would be phased off.
Uchumi recently closed Kabalagala and Neteete branches in Kampala, and over 180 workers sent on forced leave. They are unconfirmed reports that the Mbale branch has too been closed.