Kampala — A total of 5,104 former employees of Uganda Railways Corporation can now afford a smile after the Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the High Court decision awarding them Shs2.6 billion in damages for unlawful termination of their employment between 1986 and 2004.
The former employees, who noticeably looked feeble, said the ruling was a huge relief since some of them are poor and others have since died or lost families.
The former workers who served in different positions as civil engineers, traffic staff, managers and accountants, were each awarded Shs500, 000 at a 17 per cent interest from June 2004 until payment is completed.
"The respondents [former employees] are entitled to pension calculated under the 1970 pension regulations which were adopted by the Uganda Railways Corporation Board and the Uganda Railways Corporation Rules 1994," the court ruled in a judgement read by the deputy registrar, Ms Agnes Nkonge, on behalf of the three justices.
However, the judges led by the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo noted that the respondents are not entitled to a refund or payment of house rent, bonus arrears for Nalukolongo staff, refund of taxes or advances and such other dues claimed and payable which were not proved.
Other justices on the panel were Kenneth Kakuru and Stephen Musota.
"There is no evidence to show that the appellants' board declared any bonus payment to the Nalukolongo group. A bonus is not a right but can only be granted at the discretion of the board and in this case there was no such resolution," court ruled.
The former workers had claimed that being paid under the Pension's Act would put them at the same level and rate of payment as other public servants which is not the case with the corporation Act under which they are paid.
However, the justices noted that the respondents had to adduce evidence to show that the corporation was being sustained on funding directly from the Consolidated Fund or money directly provided by Parliament in running its activities and payment of salaries for its staff to fall under public service.
"For pension to be payable under the Pensions Act, the beneficiary must be a public servant within the meaning of Article 175 of the Constitution thus the respondents' pension and gratuities ought to have been calculated and paid under the 1970 Pensions Regulations which were adopted by the Uganda Railways Corporation Board," the judges stated.
The former workers were awarded two out of three of the costs of the appeal.
About 14 years ago, then High Court judge Okumu Wengi, now retired, ruled that the former employees of the Uganda Railways Corporation were entitled to payment of their pension and damages. However, Uganda Railways Corporation appealed against the judgement.