It has been over a quarter of a year since a thousand employees of World Vision Ethiopia - a Christian-based humanitarian relief agency - were told to pack up their things because their employment contracts would be terminated effective the beginning of the next month.
Some of the employees who lost their jobs, mostly social workers, are now getting ready to challenge the decision legally. According to some workers who approached The Reporter, the main reason behind the layoff is said to be the strained relationship between World Vision Ethiopia and its disgruntled employees. The agency says that currently it is restructuring its entire approach of engaging with the community that it benefits. Instead of accessing our beneficiaries through social workers, who until now have been serving as a channel, the agency wishes to have a direct and closer relationship, the agency explains.
Yet, many of the workers simply do not buy this. Some even say that World Vision still conducts activities through community workers in other countries. They say that it has even become a widely acknowledged approach in Asia, where the agency deploys large relief workers to reach communities. On top of the unfair decision to let us go, the employees say, the agency has not even delivered on the promised decent compensation package when they were laid-off.
"It seems that the agency is just keeping the severance package to its bare minimum provoking them further to take matters to court," they told The Reporter. A letter written to the Charities and Civil Societies Agency by the disgruntled employees said that the real reason behind their layoff was their criticisms of its maladministration. The restructuring process meant nothing compared to the 69 local community development projects that the relief agency runs and requires to have development workers for, the letter argued. The workers also noted that they needed the government agency to intervene and denounce the decisions of World Vision Ethiopia.
"The change is due to changes in structure and development approaches of the agency that aim to empower communities and reduce dependency, hence we revised it to align with this new direction, for that, the leadership took actions consistent with internal HR policies and national labor laws. Furthermore, the agency always took into consideration the best interests of the staff," said Meron Aberra, communications manager at World Vision Ethiopia. However, one of the employment termination letters written by the agency said that the decision was in line with Article 28(2) [c] of the Ethiopian Labor Proclamation, Proclamation No. 377/2003, and other documents that govern such matters.
The Reporter's effort for comments from the Charities and Civil Societies Agency was not fruitful.