TODAY Rwanda will join the rest of the world to mark International Labour Day. Workers in Rwanda have a lot to celebrate in terms of what has been achieved to improve their welfare over the years. To consolidate and sustain these achievements, there is need to maintain a good relationship between workers and employers through trade unions. Even when disputes occur, they should be handled amicably.
However, Trade unions have turned to courts of law in pursuit of justice over what they believe was unfair dismissal of more than 600 former employees of the energy and water utility agency, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) in 2015.
The workers want compensation for illegal dismissal, and regularization of their salary in line with the Prime Minister’s Order of 2013, which changed the salary structure in the public sector.
Apart from the issue of the dismissal of workers, trade unions also cite unaddressed cases of alleged lack of respect for workers’ rights, especially concerning the former Energy water utility agency before it was split to form the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC).
The unions claim that they have exhausted all possible avenues to resolve the matter amicably. However, while it is within their right to take the matter to court, arbitration is always a better way to solve labor related grievances.
In arbitration every one is a winner and it is a much cheaper option compared to courts. The conflicting parties need to go back to the table and review the issues that are standing in the way of resolving the issue without going to courts.
Trade Unions should indeed do whatever it takes to protect the rights of workers, but maintaining a good working relationship with employers is also critical.
Going to courts is a costly venture and the case may drag on much longer than it would take if amicable measures to address the problem are taken.
Ensuring that the workers get a fair deal without resorting to courts should be the focus.