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Bakers decry low wages amid economic meltdown

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Friday, February 23, 2024

Bread from a bakery. (-)

Bakery workers in Juba, South Sudan have voiced grievances regarding low wages and dire working conditions while calling for a pay increase to help them cope with the current economic situation.

Deng Malual, head of the Bakery Union, who also works in a bakery in the capital, said they have been complaining about improved conditions and pay rise to the deaf ears of their employers.

He said the bakers are in desperate need of better pay, especially during this time when South Sudan pound has weakened against US dollar and commodity prices are skyrocketing.

Malual explained that currently, bakery workers only get paid between 3,000 to 5,000 SSP per day, which isn’t enough to cover their daily expenses.

He also pointed out that many workers get fired for no good reason, and they don’t get any extra benefits.

“Currently, many workers still receive salaries ranging between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds for a sack per day since 2021. Currently, this amount does not meet the market’s needs,” he said.

“For example, someone with six children at home, and I worked for four sacks, which equals of       8,000 pounds, and gave a sack from the salary for four sacks and took 6,000 pounds home. What is the price of water, charcoal, besides rent?”

“I demand an adjustment and an increase in wages so that the price for one sack is 2,500 pounds for the technician and 1,250 pounds for the worker because if he works five sacks, he can cover his daily expenses at home.”

He pointed out that many workers lack health insurance, making it difficult for them to work if they fall ill.

Malual said he got tuberculosis as a result of working in tough conditions in one of the bakery.

“Some bakeries in Juba consist of only two rooms or a shop, where they operate the cooker, then they separate it, and divide for a table for kneading dough,” he said.

“In the back, there is a bathroom and a small space for workers to sleep. Imagine! The bathroom is near the oven with fire in it. Is it suitable to sleep near fire and a bathroom?”

“I believe this is the reason for our exposure to diseases like tuberculosis, sinusitis, and others. There are also other bakeries without any bathrooms and no sleeping place.”

“Thirdly, we are not being treated. I came from a healthy home with no issues, but when I started working here, and I got sick, who is responsible for my treatment?”

Malual said the bakery job itself is hectic as workers start early in the morning, kneading dough and working in hot ovens for long hours without breaks.

He said many workers are only paid for the days they work and receive no extra benefits like health or social insurance.

Deng said without work, they don’t get any money, and if they take time off, they don’t get paid for it.

According to him, there’s no official count of how many workers there are or how many work in bakeries just for the day.

He further said they are working in an environment where there are no safety rules or health insurance unlike other parts of the world.

He stated that the bakery workers need better treatment and rules to protect them. Otherwise, they’ll keep struggling in tough conditions without any help.


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