Support staff employed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, Yumbe district, are protesting a significant reduction in their salaries, which they claim has been cut by more than 50%. The workers argue that the salary cuts, from approximately UGX 800,000 to UGX 357,000, will deeply impact their well-being and plans.
The protest follows a circular issued by IRC management on December 6, 2023, announcing the removal of structures for cleaners and guards effective December 31, 2023. Subsequently, an internal advert for these phased-out positions was allegedly released on December 13, 2023. The affected workers accuse IRC of inadequate preparation for such changes and claim that the salary cuts will detrimentally affect their livelihoods.
Ashiraf Haruna, the secretary for IRC support staff (guards and cleaners) in Bidibidi, accused IRC of consistently attempting to lay off support staff, particularly locals. He noted that previous attempts in 2018 and 2022 were unsuccessful due to support from local leaders. The current reduction will affect 112 support staff, and Haruna emphasized the importance of maintaining salaries amid global crises.
IRC attributed the salary cuts to a 30% reduction in funding from UNHCR, its main project funder. IRC Country Director Elijah Okeyo indicated that they had already let go of 120 technical and operational staff in Yumbe due to budgetary constraints.
In response to the protests, IRC is advertising new positions for guards and cleaners, open to former staff who voluntarily apply. The advertised positions offer a gross monthly salary of UGX 400,953, subject to statutory deductions. IRC emphasized the impact of global economic challenges on its funding sources and expressed its commitment to finding ways to support facilities in Yumbe.
Local leaders, including Yumbe district chairperson Abdulmutalib Asiku, urged IRC and UNHCR to review their budgets to raise the net pay for support staff to at least UGX 450,000. The leaders also called for thorough screening of affected staff with indiscipline records and external adverts restricted to Yumbe district in case some staff fail to show interest.