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Former Mumias Sugar Company workers demand Sh2.3b from Sarrai Group

Mumias Sugar Company. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Former Mumias Sugar Company workers want Ugandan firm, Sarrai Group which has taken over the operations of the miller, to pay them their outstanding dues amounting to Sh2.3 billion.

Through their organisation, Mumias Workers Union, the former workers said their efforts to reach out to the management of Sarrai have been fruitless and accused local political leaders of failing to help them.

The union's chairman Patrick Mutimba, who spoke in Mumias East constituency on Friday, said they will not give up the push until they are paid their dues.

"When Sarrai Group took over, they promised to pay us. They also promised to absorb some of us. That has not happened and they don't want anything to do with us. In fact, the sure way to fail a job interview at Mumias Sugar Company is to say you are a  former employee,” Mutimba said.

The ex-workers lamented that Sarrai Group employed fresh employees, some from Uganda, and ignored them and their experience and skills.

This came even as the company’s operations manager Stephen Kihumba defended the company against accusations of snubbing the former employees.

Kihumba, who spoke to the Standard on phone, said the hiring process is still ongoing.

“We have already employed over 500 workers. These are mainly former employees of the company. No one should worry because the employment process is still ongoing. We will include the residents of Mumias. We are hiring from all over the country,” he said.

At the same time, Kihumba said Sarrai Group is not responsible for payment of the salary arrears of the former employees of the company and the Sh2.3 billion they are claiming was to be channelled to the company’s receiver manager Ponangipalli Venkata Ramana (PVR) Rao who was appointed by Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).

“The receiver manager was handling everything to do with creditors, debtors, and suppliers. We are keen on reviving the company for the good of the economy of western Kenya. Let politicians and our competitors stop interfering with our efforts,” he said.

He also denied that the company was influencing local politicians so they don't fight for the rights of the former employees.

Kakamega senator Boni Khalwlae, on Monday, assured that the company would be up and running as the Kenya Kwanza administration was keen on its revival.

On September 29, the Court of Appeal temporarily suspended a High Court decision to stop the firm from running the troubled miller.

The High Court had nullified the 20-year lease Sarrai won to run the miller and subsequently appointed Kereto Marima as its new administrator pending another process to pick another company to lease the miller.

In its heyday, the miller would crush up to 7,000 tonnes of cane per day, producing at least 250,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually.