The Eight Civil Bench of the Federal High Court has ruled in favour of Ethio telecom’s 95 former employees who have been in a court battle with the company’s labour union for four years.
The Court ruled that Ethio telecom Workers Association should pay 4.4 million Br to Adisse Borre et al. for the expenses they incurred to proceed with litigation they had with their former employer, the then Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC).
The former employees argued that they could not get two-thirds of their salary and funds for the litigation period and cost of litigation.
The employees had been in a court battle with Ethio telecom after the latter’s structural changes they undertook eight years ago, which was won by the employer in December 2012.
ETC was re-established by a regulation of the Council of Ministers (CoM) as Ethio telecom in 2010 with an authorised capital of 40 billion Br. These 95 employees were among 3,000 that were retrenched from the workforce then.
The litigation that Adisse Borre et al. demanded to be reimbursed for what was initiated at the Labour Dispute Board of the Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs (MoLSA) by 476 former workers of the 3,000 that were dismissed in June 2011. The case was appealed to the Cassation Bench in late 2012, which ruled in favour of Ethio telecom.
The applicants then claimed for the unlawful termination of their employment contract. They alleged that the telecom closed regions inappropriately and without carrying out the proper analysis. They asked the court that the telecom giant compensate them for two years of salary and a year of bonus.
Abebe Eshetu, Ethio telecom’ attorney, argued that the claim they were making were illegal and that the termination of their employment contract was appropriate. He further explained that the telecom followed the proper procedures of the labour law while conducting the laying off exercise.
The Federal High Court Appellate Bench affirmed the telecom giant’s argument. The Federal Supreme Court’s Cassation bench reaffirmed this decision of the lower court, closing the case.
It was here after that Adissie et al. sued the Association to be reimbursed for the cost of the litigation, based on articles that it compensates two-thirds of the salary during the litigation period and the cost of the litigation.
They argued at the Federal High Court in February 2014 that the association hired a lawyer during their litigation with Ethio telecom, which never reimbursed them afterwards putting an injunction on accounts worth over 42 million Br meant for this purpose at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE).
The Association’s counter argument was that since it was formed as a new body under the restructuring of the telecom, Adissie et al. were never members during the litigation. It also asserted that the provision the claimants are sighting require an acquittal before a discipline board.
The presiding judge of the Eighth Civil Bench of the Federal High Court Ledeta Division, Bereket Seyifu, passed a final ruling on the two files. He cited that the accused’s partial enforcement of its responsibilities, through hiring a lawyer, was akin to admitting its obligations.
The Association’s argument is that Adissie and his colleagues needed to be acquitted by the discipline board was also dropped, with the judge citing that their application of suits at different legal bodies are justification enough for not seeking recourse from the board.
The judge added that the Association cannot hold back compensation alleging that the provision only works for suspension, as there is not a sub-article that says this cannot be extended to terminations..
The Association appealed to the Supreme Court Second Civil Bench on the ruling of February 20, 2018. This was rejected by the Bench stating that the issue is an extra-contractual liability it is not entitled to review.
The Supreme Court ordered the registrar to file the case to the appropriate bench.
After the Cassation Bench’s decision of the legality of the cutback, the Association was able to compensate around 3,000 former employees, according to Muluneh Desalegn, the chairperson of the current employees association.
“The Association arbitrated between the former employees and the telecom. The Tele Garage, located in the Temejayaz, Sera Leon Street, was secured for them with the 20 million Br additional investment,” he explained. “The Telecom also established Hedasse telecom for the entire workers except those on forced pension and who waived the opportunity.”
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