The court on Wednesday granted the former employees an injunction ordering the Ombudsman to keep them on the payroll until their dues are paid.
One of the fired staff, Alex Msiska, who was working as an internal auditor, told The Nation that they were retrenched following a management study of the Ombudsman’s office in 2011.
But the employees were surprised when the results of the study recommended the deletion of some positions and creation of new posts making 13 positions redundant and it was only on October 3 2013 that the employees were informed of the termination of employment with three months’ notice.
“The office of the Ombudsman has considered the report and is unable to offer you any suitable alternative employment. In accordance with our Terms and Conditions of Service, you are entitled to three months notice,” reads the letter to the employees.
In December, the Ombudsman through the human resource officer Priscilla Chimowa wrote the fired employees detailing computations of the severance pay which would be paid out after January 16 but this has not been the case.
Msiska said as former employees, they could not approach the same office to air their grievances any longer after they were barred from meeting management on January 16.
“We suspect foul play in the way we were dismissed. Since the current Ombudsman came into office she has not been comfortable to work with people who worked with the previous Ombudsman and we feel this is the reason for our unceremonious removal,” Msiska said.
Besides the Industrial Relations Court (IRC), the former employees have also sought assistance from the Public Appointments Committee to seek intervention in the “persistent abuse of power and public office.”
In a letter dated January 9 2014, chairperson of the committee, Nick Masebo, wrote the former employees that the committee was attending to the issues and they would be invited for further information at an appropriate time.
When asked to comment on the developments, Office of the Ombudsman public relations officer Arthur Semba said they could not comment on the matter because it was before the IRC.