Trade unions have petitioned courts on what they believe was the unfair dismissal of more than 600 former employees of the energy and water utility agency, EWSA, in 2015.
Jordi-Michel Musoni, the president of the energy, water and sanitation workers union, SYPELGAZ, told Sunday Times that they exhausted all possible avenues and government institutions that would have helped settle the matter amicably.
After a meeting on Friday, they resolved to take the matter to court, he said.
Musoni said: “The main resolution was that we could not wait any longer for a possible amicable settlement. Now it is time to proceed to courts. Around 500 cases can be filed in court in the next two months.
“The report for Public Service Commission 2015-2016 did highlight the irregularities in the reforms in the former EWSA, but nothing was done to give back the dismissed workers their rights”.
Compensation for illegal dismissal
He added: “We claim compensation for illegal dismissal, regularization of salary according to the Prime Minister’s Order of 2013 which changed the salary structure in the public sector.
“But for EWSA, it was only implemented for government appointees but the rest of workers were promised they would also get it by March 2013 but up to now nothing has been done done.”
In December 2015, he told The New Times that apart from the issue of the dismissal of workers, trade unions had also highlighted unaddressed cases of alleged lack of respect of workers’ rights, especially concerning the former Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) before it was split to form the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC).
Back then they contemplated taking the matter to court but changed tact and petitioned Senate over the matter, in addition to waiting a bit longer to hear from the Public Service Commission (PSC), among others.
SYPELGAZ maintains that there were irregularities in the recruitment process during the restructuring process in 2014 when government carried out public service reforms aimed at ensuring efficiency, and eliminating redundancies and duplication of roles both at institutional and staff levels.
In the past, a joint team from SYPELGAZ and Centrale des Syndicats des Travailleures du Rwanda (CESTRAR), an umbrella organisation for trade unions, met with the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Judith Uwizeye, to discuss the ministry’s plan for the affected former employees.
The PSC and the Ombudsman’s office have in the past investigated the reform process’s implementation in the two institutions.
Asked if this would not be another case that eventually costs the government unnecessarily when it goes to court, Uwizeye indicated that the plaintiffs have no case.
Uwizeye added: “As far as I know, the Public Service Commission, and the Ombudsman’s Office conducted investigations and they found no injustice.”
Johnston Busingye, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, said: “I am not briefed at all about the case so I cannot begin to suggest solutions. The institutions in question enjoy the benefit of fine legal counsel so I believe they are making the best legal choices.”