Rai’s Sukari workers strike enters day 5

sukari industries

Sukari Industries Limited at Riat in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Operations at Sukari Industries in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay remained suspended for the fifth day on Monday after workers downed their tools demanding better pay.

Cane crushing at the sugar miller owned by the Rai Group was halted on Thursday last week following the strike.

Besides salary, the workers also want their employer to provide them with Personal Protective Equipment, as well as allow them to join labour unions.

The factory is based in Riat in Ndhiwa Sub-county and has been in operation for more than 12 years, providing a market for cane farmers in South Nyanza.

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Rai Group chief human resource officer Bernard Mungatana said the issues raised by workers were internal matters and promised to look at some of them.

“These issues are of importance to the workers and the company. I am happy to report that we have had a constructive meeting where we agreed on how we can resume operations,” Mr Mungatana said.

At the meeting, the company and workers representatives drafted a return-to-work formula which they are likely to sign before resuming duties.

Even though the factory’s milling capacity stands at 4,500 tonnes per day, it crushes up to 2,000 tonnes of cane.

The workers said their monthly pay has not increased as per the Salaries Increment Regulations of 2022.

“Further, the issue of paid leave has not been considered as per the law and employees are never allowed to go on paid leave or have an off in case of sickness or emergency,” read the letter.

The firm expects to restart operations after workers agree to resume duties.

Mr Mungatana claimed farmers were suffering due to the factory shutdown. “We hope we are entering an era of good industrial relations with workers,” he said.

One of the officials from the factory said the suspension of operations had resulted in losses for them.

This comes at a time when the billionaire Rai family has been tightening its grip on Kenya’s sugar industry

By July 2022, at least half of the sugar produced in Kenya was controlled by the family after it opened Naitiri Sugar Company, the fourth milling plant in Bungoma County.

Also read: Police deny holding sugar billionaire Jaswant Singh Rai

The Naitiri plant extended Rai’s position as the leading sugar manufacturer from a combined capacity of his existing three mills of West Kenya, Olepito, and Sukari.

The fall of Mumias, which controlled nearly 60 percent of the country’s total sugar production at its prime, and the collapse of some state-owned millers left the industry in the hands of private players.

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