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American envoy on spot over termination of shamba boy's contract

By Michael Odeng

Added 5th July 2020 05:17 PM

Ssemwanga has therefore sought the intervention of the labour ministry to compel Hawkins to compensate him for unfairly terminating him from his job when his contract was remaining with three months to expire.

American envoy on spot over termination of shamba boy's contract

Robert Ssemwanga

Ssemwanga has therefore sought the intervention of the labour ministry to compel Hawkins to compensate him for unfairly terminating him from his job when his contract was remaining with three months to expire.

US EMBASSY | CONTRACTS | EMPLOYMENT

A senior official at the US embassy has been dragged to the labour ministry by his former employee over unlawful termination. Robert Ssemwanga, who was working as a gardener for Ronald Hawkins, a US Embassy public affairs officer, is demanding sh18.2m in salary and damages.

His lawyers also demand sh500,000 in legal fees, lest they sue the embassy and Hawkins.

"Our instruction is to institute proceedings against you for unfair termination and defamation. However, if you wish to settle this matter out of court, you should pay the money to our client within seven days," lawyer Caroline Namara warned.

On April 21, 2020, Ssemwanga's contract was terminated on grounds of misconduct and was replaced with Paul Epwou, who was formerly a driver. Ssemwanga has therefore sought the intervention of the labour ministry to compel Hawkins to compensate him for unfairly terminating him from his job when his contract was remaining with three months to expire.

"I humbly appeal to you for urgent action against Hawkins for wrongfully dismissing me from my job without compensation," he requested.

EMPLOYMENT

Documents seen by Saturday Vision indicate that Ssemwanga signed a contract with Hawkins on August 13, 2018 to work as a gardener for a period of 24 months. Ssemwanga said he has been diligently working in the US Embassy residences for close to 12 years.

"In July 2019, Hawkins informed me that his successor desired to retain me. However, in a twist of events, I was instructed to train the driver, Epwou, in gardening. Epwou later replaced me," he said.

TERMINATION

According to a letter addressed to Hawkins and signed by Namara, Ssemwanga continued working normally until April 16, 2020 when he received information alleging that he always absconded from work while Hawkins was out of the country. "Our client requested to meet you and be heard formerly, a request you rejected and insisted that you trusted your informers," the letter to Hawkins read.

Namara maintains that Ssemwanga has never absconded from duty as alleged and directed Hawkins to cross-check with the security officer's daily attendance book when his client normally checked in and out. "It is contended that our client was unfairly terminated without notice or payment in lieu of notice as stipulated in his contract," Namara said.

She added that Ssemwanga was terminated from his job without being given a fair hearing and was denied terminal benefi ts, including allowances. The lawyer also said the embassy went ahead to defame Ssemwanga, stating that he was involved in gross misconduct whereas not, hence tainting his image.

CONTRACT

Ssemwanga's contract indicates that he was being paid sh400,000 per month. He was also compensated 200% hourly rate if he worked on public holidays and 150% for working beyond 16 hours a week.

HAWKINS' LETTER

In a letter dated April 21, 2020, Hawkins terminated Ssemwanga's contract and gave him sh200,000 — half months' salary — with an advance of sh100,000. "It came to my attention that during some of my travels, you would fail to report for work. As you did not refute the accusations, I notify you of your termination," Hawkins wrote.C

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