Dozens of former employees of PANCROP, a contractor of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, blocked the entrance Thursday to the UNMISS compound in Bor for a second straight day.
The former workers are protesting what they say is their mistreatment and unfair dismissal. An UNMISS official confirmed that more than 60 protesters have been blocking the UNMISS gates for two days, interrupting the mission’s normal operations.
Former PANCROP contractor Moses Ayuen said he and his colleagues worked for UNMISS for about five years, until earlier this year, when PANCROP handed them what he says were unfair contracts.
When the contractors complained about a lack of sick leave and other benefits, PANCROP laid off 62 contractors, according to Ayuen. He said the protesters will continue to block the UNMISS gates until PANCROP offers them better terms of service under revised contracts.
“We have already locked [the gates] because we need to see if the contracts they promised for 62 staff are available or not. There is no movement in or out. And if they are not doing it today it will be continuous,” said Ayuen.
The former employees say they want PANCROP to reinstate them or pay their benefits.
Protester Malueth Makoy told South Sudan in Focus that when he and other workers took their case to Jonglei state labor authorities last month, PANCROP promised to reinstate them. Until that happens, Makoy said he, too, will stand in front of the UNMISS gates.
“We are not doing something bad. What we want is our rights. If the Mission (is) here for peace and development, it should take its position and tell the company that is mistreating the citizens of this country to do what is right,” said Makoy.
Jonglei state labor director, Marial Achol, said PANCROP and its employees agreed in his office last month to address their dispute amicably.
PANCROP’s Operation Manager Pierre Colomb declined to comment on the protest, telling South Sudan in Focus to “speak to UNMISS in this regard.”
In an email response, Isidore Boutchue, acting head of the UNMISS field office in Bor, said there has been no movement in or out of the compound since Wednesday morning, adding that the strike interrupted flights that staff had scheduled and UNMISS operations in the area. UNMISS has asked local authorities to help resolve the dispute, according to Boutchue.
Jonglei state police commissioner Major General Joseph Mayen Akoon told South Sudan in Focus he would dispatch forces to the area only if there is an imminent threat. “I see there are no threats up to now,” he added.
Akoon urged the protesters to ask for their rights in a peaceful manner.
PANCROP was contracted by UNMISS to perform camp management services that include cleaning, gardening, laundry, and waste management work. On its website, PANCROP identifies itself as a level 2 United Nations registered and active vendor, specializing in import, export and supply-chain management.