Hundreds of armed security guards are angry with their employer after going for more than six months without pay.
The grumbling guards are employees of Range Protective Services, owned by businessman Habib Kagimu as part of his empire Habib Investments Ltd.
One guard, name withheld on request, working for one of Range Protective Services’ clients in Wakiso District, said his children in the village have dropped out of school and his wife has threatened to leave him because he can no longer support them.
Police say the situation is unacceptable and on learning about it, the director of operations in an interview said he was immediately ordering an investigation into the operations of the company.
A guard on probation at the company earns Shs145,000 per month. This rises to Shs160,000 upon completion of a six-month probation. Contingent on performance, one can be appointed senior guard after three or four years of service and they are paid Shs170,000 per month. Those who work for the company for more than five years, one guard said, are paid between Shs190,000 to Shs 200,000.
The unpaid armed guards are deployed to protect telecom companies, major retail shops, forex bureaus, apartments and hotels, among other businesses across the country.
Senior officials of the conglomerate confirmed to Daily Monitor that their workers have indeed not been paid but blamed the problem on the troubled Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL), now under receivership, which they say is their biggest client but has not paid for services rendered for more than a year.
Libya government holds a majority stake (69 per cent) in UTL with the rest owned by the Uganda government. The company has for some time been under financial troubles which prompted the Uganda government to announce a takeover recently.
Ahmed Osman Noor, the chief executive officer of Habib Investments Ltd, could not, however, reveal how much UTL owes them.
“We have arrears over one year with UTL. That is the major challenge and we are trying to find alternative ways,” Mr Noor said.
He also could not commit the exact date when the guards will be paid. He instead promised to make arrangement for Daily Monitor to meet Mr Kagimu’s son—Muayyad Kibirige Kagimu—who directly supervises Range Protective Services Ltd. Mr Kibirige was reported to be out of the country.
However, Paul Nkangi, an executive personal assistant to Mr Kagimu, told Daily Monitor at their offices on Wampewo Avenue in Kololo, Kampala, that the workers are bound by “an oath of secrecy” and “should wait to be paid instead of complaining to the media”.
When contacted, police director for operations, AIGP Asuman Mugenyi, said he was learning of the problem for the first time. He said he was going to direct the commissioner in charge to investigate the matter immediately.
He explained that two years ago, police had a similar problem with another private security firm Saracen Uganda Limited and they moved in and resolved the matter.
Ideally, AIGP Mugenyi said, the IGP can suspended or terminate the operations of the private security firm on learning that it has failed to pay its workers for two months.
Last year, the company’s guards deployed in Kampala went on strike after the company defaulted on their salaries for four months. The company responded by paying them for one month. Their counterparts outside Kampala, one guard said, received nothing.
The company also moved to punish the dissenters by firing three of the suspected strike ring leaders, including a one Eddie Masiga.
The guards we talked to said they had petitioned the police and the labour office but their issue had not been concluded by the time of filing this story yesterday.
During their sit-down strike last year, the guards met with Habib Investments Ltd officials and police at Mr Kagimu’s Landmark Apartment. One of the guards told Daily Monitor that their employer promised to pay their arrears in the presence of Jinja Road Division Police Commander, Mr Moses Eliau Osega.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Eliau confirmed he mediated between the guards and their employers and wondered why the issue has not been resolved.
“I mediated that issue and I thought things had gone back to normal. It is unfortunate that a company would take that long to pay its workers,” Mr Eliau said.
In 2013, police which directly supervises the operations of Private Security Organisations (PSOs) issued a set of guidelines to monitor and control the operations of private security companies.
The move followed reports of private guards being involved in various crimes ranging from robbery to murder.
The Statutory Instrument No.11 of 2013 issued by the Internal Affairs minister provide guidelines on recruitment and management of operational personnel, management and procurement of firearms and maintenance of quality operational standards of the private security companies. The guidelines require police authorities to monitor and maintain the standards of training and recruitment procedures that the PSOs are required to adhere to.
One of the guidelines requires a private security company to pay its employees promptly.
“PSOs must pay the wages and allowances to their employees promptly. To this end, they must file their monthly salary accounts with the police to ensure they are complying with this requirement,” the guidelines states.
In the guidelines, the Inspector General of Police is mandated as the sole authority that supervises and regulates the activities of the private security companies in the country. The IGP can, however, delegate the day-to-day monitoring of the PSOs to the regional and district/divisional police commanders in the respective areas.
It is not clear why the IGP and or his agents who have wide-ranging powers over the private security companies have not acted on the grievances of Range Protective Services Ltd employees.
Under the guidelines, the IGP is required to issue “an assessment certificate for each PSO in the country”.
PSOs are not allowed to deduct any money from guards to cater for the uniforms and other equipment that they use. Employers must take out appropriate insurance cover for their employees.
PSO are required to file all particulars of their staff, including fingerprints within two weeks of employment to IGP, and to file quarterly staff returns.
Every PSO must make a report to IGP of its operations every three months and the IGP must inspect every PSO’s armoury, arms and ammunition every four months.