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RWANDA: Illegally dismissed SYPELGAZ trade union members to return to court on June 4

25 May 2018
PSI affiliate SYPELGAZ (Trade Union for Energy, Water and Sanitation in Rwanda) has been in court since May 2016, to demand for proper compensation of its five illegally dismissed Union Executive Committee Members and various other longtime denied labor related rights. After hearing explanations from both sides, the Court has deferred further pronouncements on the case to June 4.

The court listened to an appeal from two lawyers of the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) Ltd concerning a decision taken by the Intermediary Court of Nyarugenge, Kigali, on November 27, 2017, re-activating some outstanding rights that were denied to workers of former EWSA (Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority)

Their issues were:

  1. The Intermediary court should not have accepted to receive the claims against REG LTD as the last employer rather rejected it because the last employer is the Government of Rwanda;
  2. The court should not have received the claims because the administrative procedures were not respected;
  3. The court should have considered a prescription time of 2 years for salary and other benefits claimed after that time frame and reject the reclamation from complainants;
  4. The court should not have allowed regularization of salaries based on Prime Minister's Order because these workers were not concerned about this.
  5. The court should not have accepted regularization of salaries based on Horizontal Promotion in Public Service because the complainants were not formally promoted.
  6. The court should not have allowed lawyer fees and court fees because they had no reason to file case in the court
  7. The court has to analyze the validity of the appeal file and allow REG, Rfw 2,000,000 from each complainant as compensation (which makes Rfw 10,000,000)

Thereafter, SYPELGAZ representatives in court gave their position on each of the issues while at the same time, took the opportunity to raise the issue of compensation they were demanding based on illegal dismissal of Union Representatives.

In this case, lawyers for REG said that trade union representatives in public service are not protected because the General Statute for Public Service in the country is quiet on that point.

But SYPELGAZ Lawyer argued that even if that General Statute is quiet, the ILO Convention 135 ratified by Rwanda in 1988 is clear in its Recommendation 143 about the protection of Trade Union Representatives in cases of reforms/privatization.

The issue dates to 2014, when the Government of Rwanda decided to reform the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) and made it a Government-owned company under commercial law. At the time, almost all workers of EWSA were public servants, pursuant to Law No. 87/2013, establishing the General Statutes for Public Service. The privatization process led to EWSA split into two new companies, Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), and former public employees were encouraged to compete again for their jobs, since all positions in the two new companies were re-opened. These competitions resulted in the dismissal of 700 workers, mostly trade union members, including five trade union leaders of SYPELGAZ.

SYPELGAZ has been in court since May 2016, to demand for proper compensation of its five illegally dismissed Union Executive Committee Members and various other longtime denied labor related rights. After hearing explanations from both sides, the Court has deferred further pronouncements on the case to June 4th, 2018 at 4:00pm.

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