KAMPALA – The High Court has set April 28, 2021 as the date to hear an application by 10 former Crane Bank employees to compel dfcu Bank to disclose key documents that they say are critical to their case against the bank.
This follows failed negotiations between the two parties on April 7, 2020 when they failed to settle.
This prompted the former Crane Bank workers, represented by top human rights lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid, to file and serve dfcu Bank’s lawyers, Sebalu & Lule Advocates an application to compel production and inspection of several documents hitherto withheld by dfcu Bank.
“Let all the parties concerned attend the learned judge in chambers on 28th day of April 2021 at 11:00 am in the forenoon or afternoon as counsel for the applicants can be heard,” ordered the High Court Registrar on 07th April 2021.
On October 1 2020, 10 representatives of the 625 employees filed a suit at the court through the Centre for Legal Aid and Maxim Advocates, alleging wrongful and constructive dismissals. They want dfcu Bank to pay them UGX48 billion.
The representatives are Catherine Achan, Teddy Akullo, Janet Ngwena, Mactose Arinaitwe, Edward Bukenya, and Loy Kiwumulo. Others are Abbey Mivule, Benjamin Muchwa, Robert Mwanje, and Emmanuel Ngororano.
In Civil Suit No. 335 of 2020 against dfcu, the employees are suing for “reinstatement, damages, interest and costs for unjust discrimination and other human rights violations, fraud, negligence, breach of duty, bad faith, breach of trust and unjust enrichment in relation to the restructuring purportedly undertaken by the respondent in 2017.”
dfcu Bank, in its defence, insists that the former employees were terminated properly and that those who resigned did so voluntarily and that all grievances were addressed legally and prudently.
The former employees and their lawyers want dfcu Bank to give them access to “all documents that show that dfcu did not underpay former CBL staff doing the same or broadly similar jobs or jobs of equal value compared to pre-existing employees of the bank.”
These documents include lists of dfcu employees, written notices of resignations of the affected employees, contracts of the employees retained by dfcu as well as the payroll of dfcu in the month before the acquisition of the Crane Bank business i.e., December 2016 and January 2017 and the payroll after the acquisition of Crane Bank (25th January 2017 to 23rd October 2017).
They have also asked the court to grant them access to the corresponding returns of and payment slips for pay as you Earn (PAYE) and National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contributions.
They have also prayed to the court to grant them the list of former CBL employees that were laid off, termination letters for the employees, notifications made to the Commissioner of Labour regarding the terminations, documents that show dfcu promptly paid appropriate termination packages, including relocation allowances to the terminated employees. Access should also be granted to certificates of service, lists of roles that were duplicated and therefore the basis for the termination, a list of expatriates that were not retained and proof that dfcu paid an ex-gratia payment of UGX1,000,000 to all the terminated employees.
The lawyers also want dfcu to pay for the costs of the application.
Why is this application important to the case?
In an affidavit, Arinaitwe Mactose, on behalf of his fired colleagues says that the “documents requested for in the notice relate to decisions that were made by the respondent concerning the rights, status and benefits of the applicants” and are “legal requirement in the course of restructuring the workforce of an organization.”
“Further, I know that by granting this application, Court will facilitate fair and expeditious disposal of the suit, by curtailing delay and reducing expense,” he swore, adding that the documents are key to proving that dfcu Bank “treated them fairly and justly upon acquisition of the CBL business, and that it did not commit the fraud, bad faith, negligence, breach of duty and human rights violations complained of.”
“On account of the foregoing, I know and verily believe that timely and accurate disclosure of documents which are the subject of this application will facilitate pre-trial admissions, concessions, compromise and/or settlement of the suit either in whole or in part, thereby reducing costs,” he asked the court.