The Energy, water and sanitation workers union, SYPELGAZ, has criticised what it refers to as unjust treatment of hundreds of former employees of the energy and water utility agencies who were laid off.
Explaining the predicament, Jordi-Michel Musoni, the president of SYPELGAZ, told The New Times, last week, that while the dismissed workers from Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) are supposed to get two-thirds of their monthly salary for six months before they get terminal benefits, the payments delayed.
“This monthly two-thirds pay has delayed yet other existing workers get theirs on time. At REG, the situation is even worse because the last payment was in July. Who will bear the consequences, especially for those defaulting on bank loans?” Musoni asked.
“Of course, the vulnerable and dismissed workers will bear the cost, but why must they continue to be subjected to such an unjust treatment?”
Musoni said more than 600 people are so far affected and that the number is increasing.
He said a recent joint team from SYPELGAZ and Centrale des Syndicats des Travailleures du Rwanda (CESTRAR), an umbrella organisation for trade unions in the country, met with the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Judith Uwizeye, to discuss the ministry’s plan for the affected former employees but, “surprisingly, there is nothing planned for them.”
“We know that in all previous government reforms, workers who lost their jobs were reappointed in other public services, others were helped get technical training, continue their studies, helped to join cooperatives and so on, but why are these workers treated as if no one cares for them?”
Musoni said the minister confirmed that the ministry is unable to get jobs for all the affected former workers at the moment because there are no vacant jobs.
“We asked her to at least to advocate for them to get the two-thirds of their pay for six months at ago and terminal benefits in order to help them find self-employment, but the minister said it was against the law yet this facilitation was done in the past for others during government reforms.”
Ministry sticks to rules
Minister Uwizeye neither confirmed nor denied the outcomes of the said meeting, but maintained that workers who lost their jobs are entitled to two-thirds of their salary for six months after which they get their terminal befits.
“They have to be treated according to what is provided for by the law. However, they may benefit from our national employment programme for those wishing to become entrepreneurs,” Uwizeye said.
Clément Musangwabatware, the deputy ombudsman in charge of preventing and fighting corruption and other related offences, said the Ombudsman’s office is “still working on the case and a provisional report will be ready in the coming days.”
“We do not report our findings when we are still working on a case,” he said.
The New Times was unable to reach WASAC director-general, James Sano, but over a month ago, the Police briefly detained Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the chief executive of REG, as he was being investigated for allegedly holding in contempt the Office of the Ombudsman.
The arrest, according to the Office of the Ombudsman, also followed complaints concerning questionable staff recruitment at the organsation.
Mugiraneza was later released after he reportedly accepted to cooperate with investigators.
The Ombudsman’s office and the Public Service Commission are reportedly investigating the reform process’s execution in REG and WASAC but, while this investigation started nearly two months ago, Musoni said, the “desperate dismissed workers are waiting for the findings to get justice done.”
When contacted last week, Mugiraneza referred The New Times to Emmanuel Kamanzi, the Energy Development Corporation Limited managing director, who apologised on behalf the agency to the affected former employees.
“We do apologise to our former employees but the issue is that the reform process took long. We are trying to make sure that no errors are made as we ascertain who left and who is staying,” Kamanzi said.
“We delayed to pay August and September salaries, for both those dismissed and those who stayed, but now August salaries have been paid although there are some people who haven’t received their pay.”
Kamanzi, however, could not readily specify how many of the dismissed employees had not been paid.
“I am sure that they are going to be paid soon. There is no alarming issue here really. It’s just that the processing of payments is a long process.”
The dismissed employees have petitioned the Ombudsman over “unfair dismissal.”
They allege there were irregularities in the recruitment process during the restructuring process last year when the government carried out reforms in the public service aimed at ensuring efficiency, avoiding redundancies and duplication of roles both at institutional and staff levels.