Demand millions in compensation
A case that has been shelved in the archives for close to a year will soon be re-opened in Kigali’s High Court where 14 former employees of ECOBANK will fight it out with the bank over wrongful dismissal, The New Times reports
In court documents seen by this reporter, they are requesting the court to instruct their former employer to pay close to 10 million in damages.
The two-year old case number R.Soc0036/08/TGI/NYGE was initially heard by the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court which ruled in favour of the former employees and ordered ECOBANK to pay a total of Rwf 8.7 million and an extra Rwf 348,000 in court fees.
However, the complainants were not satisfied with the court’s decision and chose to appeal in the High Court.
Casmir Makuza, a former cashier at the then Bank of Commerce, Development and Investment (BCDI), claims that having worked for three years, the new owners of the bank served him with termination papers in September without prior warning or compensation.
“I feel that the law was not followed and some issues were ignored in my first case. I would like the arbitration of the High Court and I would like the bank to pay six months’ salary as stipulated by the law, and I would like them to pay my court fees and other damages,” he says in his court papers
When contacted, the ECOBANK Managing Director; Daniel Sackey told The New Times that he was aware of the case adding that so many channels had been tried in order to settle the dispute but the complainants had preferred the courts of law.
“Yes, I am aware of the court case. In fact the court case stems from the laying-off of 52 former employees of BCDI after the new management had reviewed the staffing needs where the minimum requirement was a high school diploma,” he said
Sackey explained that his company had observed the labour law to the latter and said only the 14 out of 52 laid off members were the only ones who had rejected the bank’s send away package.
“We paid these people redundancy costs as required by the law and in addition to that, we offered 3-months’ extra pay to all of them. Unfortunately, despite the package being approved by the national labour body, the other 14 rejected it and opted for courts of law,” he said
In documents seen by The New Times, the workers’ union (CESTRAR) and ECOBANK reached a tripartite agreement on who would get what depending on the length of service, leaves taken.
Sackey, however, said that the number was initially bigger though with time, some returned to ECOBANK to pick their packages and move on.
“The number of complainants was bigger though some came in and collected their money. Infact, the money is still intact, those interested in it can come and pick it anytime,”he said
Sackey said that his bank was not worried about the upcoming lawsuit due to the conviction that his office had followed the provisions of the law.
The case comes up now as a result of the backlog that continues to weigh down the High Court and its budget on a daily basis. The President of the High Court, Johnstone Busingye, blames the backlog on the continuous flow of cases that come in. He explained that the Kigali Chambers were currently dealing with 5,373 cases which were all filed between 2008 and 2010.
In July 2007, ECOBANK bought a 90 percent stake in BCDI for 6.4 billion Rwandan francs ($ 11.6 million) after the latter was declared insolvent in 2006 due to huge financial losses.