In the case of TUMUSIIME RICHARD AND 5 OTHERS V MUKWANO PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS; LABOUR DISPUTE REFERENCE NO. 022 OF 2014.
Quorum: Hon. Chief Judge Ruhinda Asaph Ntengye and Hon. Lady Justice Lillian Linda Tumusiime Mugisha on 10th May 2019.
The claimants claimed that they were employees of the respondent until 10/2/2012 when they were suspended from duty. They then invited to a disciplinary meeting, and on 11/2/2012 they were summarily dismissed. They claimed they were denied a fair hearing. The respondents claimed that the claimants were suspended for conducting an illegal riot, failure to obey lawful orders, loss of trust, and confidence. Under the circumstances, the claimants appeared before a disciplinary committee, and a fair hearing was conducted.
The court considered the compliance to Section 66, and 68 of the Employment Act to determine whether the termination was unlawful. When an employer is bringing charges against an offending employee, the employer must give the employee time to prepare a defense, an impartial tribunal, and allow the employee to be accompanied by a person of his or her choice to the hearing. Under Section 58 of the Employment Act, an employee is entitled to notice before termination or dismissal regardless of whether the employee has breached some terms of the contract or not. However, the law provides for instances where such notice can be foregone under section 69 of the Employment Act.
Court further pointed out that laying down tools of work by workers is a given right. An employee has a right to withdraw his labor if he/she is not satisfied with the conditions at work. He/she is entitled to join a Labour Union for purposes of collective bargaining for better conditions of work. A strike, or laying down of tools of work by employees is provided for under Section 03 of the Labour Unions Act. However, such withdrawal of labor has to be done in an orderly manner without causing destruction of property or any unnecessary inconvenience which may be illegal.
The claimants were not given sufficient time to prepare for their defense. They were suspended on 10/02/2019 and asked to attend the inquiry on 11/2/2012 which turned out to be a hearing. This could not be by any stretch of imagination sufficient time to prepare a defense even if one did not have to engage a lawyer. The court based on the fact that the claimant was given less than 24 hours to prepare for a disciplinary hearing to hold that the claimants were not given a fair hearing. Therefore, their termination was unlawful and unfair.