Remote Group, a subsidiary of an American construction company with operations in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo is courting controversy after a group of casual labourers who had been working on the company’s sites raised concern over their termination dues.
Rwanda Today has learnt that the company has been locked in negotiations with 8000 casual workers after the company embarked on restructuring its operations as it was forced to scale back operations due to the coronavirus lockdown.
While the company has managed to settle some claims, approximately 30 casual labourers have failed to reach an agreement with the company over their termination benefits.
Now, they are threatening to drag the company to court to settle their dues.
While Remote Group has declined to comment on the ongoing dispute, some of the disgruntled casual labourers are pushing for compensation.
Specifically, when contacted to comment, Trevor Green, managing director of the company declined to comment on the issue.
According to Audia Uwingeneye who has been working with the Remote Group as a construction worker since the construction company took up the development of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) in Bugesera district says the company did not fulfill its obligations with Rwanda Social Security Fund.
A mother of two has been doing physical work associates with construction such as clearing, digging, and building for nearly two years.
However, as the company resumed operations after three months in suspension due to the coronavirus, she was given two options of either signing a new contract revoking the initial one or terminating the contract mutually.
According to the contract, she had initially signed, Ms Uwingeneye and her co-workers were entitled to the benefits of their contracts termination as dictated by the labour law.
Couple of dozens of employees are compensation from Remote Group overtime that they have worked, the annual leaves they didn’t take throughout two years, health insurance and social security funds among other benefits.
“We have checked with the Rwanda Social Security Board and found out that they have paid our social security contributions for only nine months out of the 20 months they have supposed to cover,” Uwingeneye told Rwanda Today.
“Though the initial contract was issued in a language that I don’t understand, Remote Group has failed to comply with it because I was supposed to be paid the annual leaves for two years and 36 days, health insurance, social security fund, overtime among others,” she added.
According to labour inspectors, with the mutual settlement failing to bear fruits, the employees have been given a green light to proceed with the court mechanisms to claim their rights.
Daniel Cyubahiro, legal representative of the group told Rwanda Today that Remote Group refused to enter into out court settlement, forcing them to start a legal process.
“We have lodged a case against Remote Group in Gasabo Intermediate court as other mechanisms failed,” Mr Cyubahiro said.
According to the affected employees who were suspended on March 3, due to the pandemic, they were told to report back on duty on June 16, and handed new contracts revoking some of their legal protection in the working environment that were enshrined in the initial contract.
Rwanda Today has learnt that most of the concerned workers decided to part ways with the company due to poor working conditions and the working mechanism that the new contract was proposing.
“Under the proposed contract that we were proposed to sign, we were not protected whatsoever with labour law protection,” Emmanuel Ngendahimana, a former masonry with Remote Group Told Rwanda Today.
Adding that some of them who signed the contract have been fired after a short time. With the property development sector being badly hit by the pandemic effects, many companies have started filing bankruptcy or abandoning their undertakings.
The affected employees have been stranded as they cannot get employed without some of the documents still in possession of their last employer.