Rwanda: Labour Union Calls Equal Treatment of Ex-Workers of Energy, Water Utilities

The Energy, Water, and Sanitation Workers Union - SYPELGAZ- has called for the harmonisation of the case in which former staff members of the energy and water utility bodies are seeking compensation after they were laid off when the two bodies were split seven years ago.

According to the union, it is better concerned authorities harmonise the way the affected former workers are treated to ensure fairness of all parties.

In 2013, the former EWSA was split into two firms - Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC).

Following the split, hundreds of employees were rendered 'redundant' and subsequently laid off and they have over the years petitioned different institutions saying that they were not duly compensated.

Jordi-Michel Musoni, the president of SYPELGAZ told The New Times recently that so far, out of an estimated cumulative arrears of Rwf11.5 billion owed to the former employees - Rwf5.5 billion for REG and Rwf6 billion for WASAC - the Ministry of Finance has paid up to Rwf3.2 billion.

These payments were disbursed in different instalments from which Rwf2 billion was for those who worked in the energy department (now REG) and Rwf1.2 billion went for people who worked in water services.

Musoni added: "It is promising progress but it is better to harmonize the way these workers are treated especially that they claim the same rights but unfortunately treated differently, thus making some more favored than others.

For example, REG has paid 74% of total arrears to the laid off employees of EWSA and totally nothing to the former employees who stayed with REG since 2015; while WASAC paid 50% to the laid off employees of EWSA and 5% to the former employees of EWSA who stayed in WASAC since 2015 following the split of EWSA.

So far, we are informed that there is a cumulative Rwf7 billion budgeted in this fiscal year 2021-2022 for settling the remaining balance."

For the arrears of former EWSA staff, both those who were laid off and those who stayed with two respective new bodies, Musoni was bringing up the issue of regularisation of salary increments set up since 2013 "and the other implications on their other benefits as workers."

Regularising contributions

According to Musoni, despite the good steps made in the recent past, a new issue - the regularisation of Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) contributions still stands.

He said: "We have approached REG on different occasions to know the updates, but they keep telling us that the issue is still in process. This process has become endless and beneficiaries cannot benefit ever since April 2020 when REG made the first payment of these arrears."

We heard that RSSB fined REG with interest for late payment but REG refused to pay this fine. WASAC did not calculate these RSSB regularizations which may cause further lawsuits."

Musoni said that their wish is that the Ministry of Finance will "harmonize the way these workers are paid and close this case" within this first trimester of the 2021-2022 budget.

"I think the issue of RSSB is the one that seems new. We had agreed with both institutions that this should be equally considered and we realized that REG did it but WASAC ignored it."

"For REG, they say that they did not think that RSSB will fine them for late payment because it is a government issue; with payments coming from the Ministry of Finance after long time negotiations and the line ministry of RSSB. In fact they sent the amount on the accounts but RSSB blocked the money until the fines are paid too."

What RSSB says

Isidore Bazambanza, the Director of Contributor Account Management Unit at RSSB, said: "The issue is like this: REG paid the regularization of salaries for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. The regularisation was done in 2020. They declared those remunerations cumulatively in March 2020 instead of allocating remunerations to corresponding months."

According to Bazambanza, REG was advised to adjust the declarations.

This adjustment, he explained, will require payment of penalties and interest.

"They were requested to pay or if the delay is a result of circumstances beyond their control, apply for a waiver to the competent organ, the RSSB Board of Directors," Bazambanza said.

"The request has been submitted and is yet to be discussed in the BoD appeal committee which is likely to take place in a few days to come."

The now six-year-old case concerns more than 1,600 workers - more than 900 and 800, from REG and WASAC, respectively.

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