By Andante Okanya
A group of 492 railway workers under the umbrella trade union Uganda Railway Workers' Union has sued Rift Valley Railways(RVR) demanding sh2b for salary and damages, claiming the latter cheated them by breaching agreements signed that spelt out the mode of payment.
In the suit filed on May 9 at the High Court in Kampala, the plaintiffs including both serving and laid off workers. They allege that RVR reneged on an undertaking to honour the Interim Partial Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) dated April 3, 2013, and the Agreement for Redundancy Pay for RVR Uganda staff dated November 27, 2012.
Through Barya, Byamugisha and Company Advocates, they are demanding that the company be restrained from laying off staff until the agreements are implemented. Court documents show that on December 3, 2008, RVR signed a recognition agreement with the union identifying the union as representatives of the workers.
"The defendant has since issued new redundancy notices dated April 30, 2013, and May 1, 2013 to lay off employees by the end of May 2013. Plaintiffs demand that proper redundancy procedures are followed ," the plaint states.
The workers purport that the agreements have not been adhered to, and that RVR has violated it, as it does not pay all its employees in accordance with CBA. The workers further state that when they complained, the company issued a notice of redundancy dated November 15, 2012, stating that it intended to automate various manual systems and other process improvement projects. The notice indicated that 200 employees were to be laid off.
Court documents also show that last year between November 19 to 21, meetings were held between representatives of the warring parties to negotiate terms of the proposed redundancy. Proposals and counter proposals were made.
The complainants purport that before conclusion of the negotiations, RVR issued termination letters to 108 workers, dated November 27, 2012, that was to take immediate effect. The plaintiffs further state that the workers still in service have since last year March 1 been paid wrong and lower slaries.
The complainants state that details of the actual mode of payments for each of the complainants will be adduced during the trial.
Court has asked RVR to file its defence within 15 days. In the summons signed by registrar Eudes Keitirima dated May 9, 2013, the company has been cautioned to heed, lest judgement is issued in its absence.
The case file has been allocated to Justice Benjamin Kabiito. However, a hearing date is yet to be scheduled.