Not even a year of operations in the Ugandan market, news reaching our desk indicates that the Lebanese based telecom firm Africell Uganda is now engulfed in a legal battle with former Orange employees. At the end of March, Africell sacked 59 employees as one of its strategies that aimed to restructure former Orange Uganda to return it to profitability. The move to lay off these workers was seen by critics as a contradictory one, given that the company in the same period hired 46 more employees. Some of the retrenched staff decided to settle with the company, but a majority found the termination offers insufficient and a breach of their employment contracts.
The former employees have solicited the services of one the top renown legal firms in Uganda who will battle with Africell’s lawyers which include the President’s son-in-law. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development’s chief accounting officer told the East African that they are waiting to hear from both the company and the sacked employees before making a decision on the way forward. Pius Bigirimana, the Permanent Secretary at the ministry he said that
[signoff icon=”quote-circled”]There are a number of meetings going on because before I solve the problem I must understand from all sides. I have now listened to the complainants and I have meetings with the Africell people also. When I have all the information, I will compare it against each other then get my legal team to check for any legal implications before we take any final positions.[/signoff]
Techjaja has also learnt from trusted sources that the company’s CFO tried to contact some of the sacked workers to convince them to settle for at least one month’s salary on top of the company’s initial terminal benefit offer so as to abandon any legal action against the company but in vain.
A legal note to the company from lawyers of the retrenched reads:
[signoff icon=”quote-circled”]We have had the opportunity of perusing our clients’ termination letters, contracts of service and your human resource manual and have concluded that your actions were highhanded and a brazen breach of their terms and conditions of service. Our clients found your termination benefits package lacking in so many ways and did not address most of their concerns as per their contracts of employment and the human resource manual,[/signoff]
The company’s Chief Operating Officer Mr Mohammad Ghaddar, told the East African that
[signoff icon=”quote-circled”]First of all, nobody was laid off arbitrarily. Everybody was laid off under the law. It was a collective termination and we informed the labour department [at the Ministry of Labour] as per the law and we paid everybody their terminal benefits including their leave days, allowances and other payments. So what we have done was completely according to the laws in Uganda.[/signoff]
Africell Uganda has faced a lot of negative press in the past month after serious racism legations and leaked emails from the Chief Commercial Director Milad Khairallah, who now has reportedly been transferred to Africell Congo.