RWACOM workers protest poor conditions

KIGALI - Workers at RWACOM plastic industries in Kigali have complained against what they call poor working conditions at the company’s plant.
RWACOM building in the city centre. (Photo / B. L Tuyisenge).
RWACOM building in the city centre. (Photo / B. L Tuyisenge).

KIGALI - Workers at RWACOM plastic industries in Kigali have complained against what they call poor working conditions at the company’s plant.

An employee of the company who spoke to The New Times on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said that they are subjected to harsh working conditions and are paid peanuts.

Most workers are paid a minimum salary of between Frw20,000 and Frw60.000. The male worker said that their bosses sometimes delay paying their monthly salaries, something that affects their livelihoods.

“Some of us have big families to look after and children to send to school, but our boss does not seem to understand our situation,” he cried.

The employee said that they work twelve hours at night, locked inside a warehouse which has no toilet.

Said the worker: “We work from 6 p.m. in the evening up to 7 a.m. in the morning; and for all this period, our boss locks us inside the factory with machines running.” 

He added that the machines in the factory are very hot and there isn’t enough ventilation. He said that many employers fear they will contract Tuberculosis from exposure to industrial fumes.

Another employee of the company said that they have complained to the police but no action has been taken. The employees further complained that the company does not offer them medical insurance, yet the nature of their work exposes them to risks such as industrial accidents.

They also allege that even when they have accidents while on duty, they are not given transport to hospital. They claim that some of them lose fingers while on duty while others faint due to working for long hours without food.

“Locked up to stop them stealing oil”

Contacted for comment, RWACOM’s Managing Director, Hitesh Shah said  that some of the problems came up because he had been admitted to hospital in India since January with brain cancer.

Speaking to The New Times in his office in downtown Kigali, Shah said that every worker is paid according to the nature of work they do. He further said that every worker is entitled to a 4 percent salary increment per year.

He explained: “If you are a manager, you get paid as a manager, and if you are a casual labourer, you get paid as such.”

Shah refuted claims that the industry produces fumes because it is a plastic making industry. He defended his policy of locking the workers inside the factory at night saying that it was a measure taken to stop the workers from stealing oil from the industry.

About non-provision of health insurance to his workers, Shah claimed that the policy has always been reserved for government employees.

But when challenged that there are private companies offering health insurance, he said that it must be a new policy for “private small companies” like RWACOM.

The co-director of the company, Nennah Shah who was also present during the interview, was less charitable to the workers complaints.

“If they are working under very harsh conditions, how come they have not left?” she wondered.

She added that anyone who wants to leave is free to go and they will give a good recommendation to any worker who chooses to leave. She said that all these complaints are engineered by jealous competitors whom she did not mention.

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