The Industrial Relations Court (IRC) sitting at Mzuzu Registry on August 30 2019 granted damages in excess of K1 billion to 117 former employees of Opportunity Bank of Malawi (OBM).
The employees sued the bank, which was later acquired by First Capital Bank, for unfair dismissal, in an IRC matter 116 of 2016.
And in his ruling, IRC Deputy Chairperson Kingsley Mlungu agreed with the applicants that they were unfairly dismissed and that their right to fair labour practices was violated against.
The court faulted the bank for failing to follow procedures of terminating an employee’s contract, for instance, by way of consultation among others.
According to the ruling, however, the bank, through one of its witnesses Arthur Nkosi who worked as head of human resource at the bank’s headquarters, did not give ample time for consultation and prior notification to avoid risk matters of fraud and theft.
“To that end, we find that the applicants herein were unfairly dismissed from their respective employment with the respondent and they are therefore entitled to compensation as prayed for by them,” reads Mlungu’s ruling in part.
In the court submissions that we have seen and a letter to the bank’s lawyer Nicodemus Sitima, the applicants are demanding a flat figure of K10 million for each of them.
Through their lawyer George Kadzipatike, the applicants complain that they are open to discussion for an out-of-court settlement.
Reacting to the judgment, one of the ex-employees Aaron Kayira, who worked as a relationships officer at Chitipa Branch, said he can now heave a sigh of relief.
“We sought justice and we got, I am excited. A lot of things were disturbed in my life after losing the job, I failed to send my children to decent schools. I am happy that the court has found our then employer liable,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.
Sitima said he and his clients have not yet accessed the judgment.
“We have not yet seen the ruling, so I cannot comment,” he said.
In 2016, OBM announced that it would be closing some of its outlets and laying off some of its staff due to economic downturn.
It is on court record that the bank had made accumulated losses of up to K6 billion in 2015, due to costs of operating and maintaining the outlets.