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Rehoboth fights N$1m pay to ex-CEO

2024-05-21  Maria Sheya

Rehoboth fights N$1m pay to ex-CEO

The Rehoboth Town Council is in the High Court fighting against the N$1 million compensation it must pay erstwhile CEO Christoph /Uirab, following an arbitrator’s award.  

The town council claims that the arbitrator erred when he awarded /Uirab a total of N$1 031 336.37 and seeks for the award to be set aside. 

On 15 September 2022, an arbitrator ordered that the council pays N$219 110 of four months’ worth of salary, N$161856 for leave gratuity, N$102 967.90 for prorate bonus, and N$536 726.86 for motor-vehicle loss.

The arbitrator also ordered the council to pay N$102 967.90 on the arrears /Uirab accumulated on his National Housing Enterprise house.

The arbitrator further ordered that a total of N$1 031 336.37 be paid to /Uirab on or before 15 October 2022.

The arbitrator noted that              /Uirab was unfairly treated when he resigned on 28 June 2018, giving five months’ notice. 

His last day at work would have been 23 November 2018. /Uirab was appointed on 1 February 2016 as CEO on a five-year renewable contract.

“… taking into account the labour injustice Mr Christoph /Uirab suffered at the hands of the Rehoboth Town Council, it behoves this tribunal to make an award of compensation for the losses that he suffered in respect of his house and motor-vehicle,” Dionysius Louw, the arbitrator, said at the time.

/Uirab took the town council to the labour commissioner after it refused his five-month resignation notice and opted that he makes use of the one-month notice. He claimed that his former employer unlawfully deducted annual and sick leave days from his remuneration.

However, the town council, through its lawyer Hafeni Hamunyela argued before Judge Kobus Miller that the arbitrator erred, in law, in finding that there was unlawful deduction of the leave days in the absence of evidence that leave was approved. 

The days in question are 10 June to 13 June 2018, and 22 June 2018 to 29 June 2018.

“This leave is for the period when the first respondent was serving his resignation notice. This leave was not communicated to the supervisor, and was not approved,” he said.

On the car payment award, Hamunyela said it amounts to a duplication, as his monthly salary of N$54 777.47 is already inclusive of a car allowance.

It is alleged that /Uirab’s Amarok 2013 model car was repossessed by the bank after he failed to make payments on the car loan. 

Hamunyela further said the award of N$102 967.90 on the housing subsidy is duplicitous, as it is also already included in the monthly salary. 

“We say so because the arbitrator has already awarded the first respondent (/Uirab) the sum of N$219110 which amount is made up of monthly salary for four months, inclusive of housing subsidy and motor-vehicle allowance,” he argued.

Hamunyela added that /Uirab is not entitled to any compensation, as he was not dismissed but resigned voluntarily.

Uirab’s lawyer Rachel Mondo said /Uirab resigned from his job due to tremendous victimisation, unfair suspensions, psychological trauma, and a non-conducive working environment.

She said the town council was wrong to reject /Uirab’s five-month notice, as the law permits him to give such notice before his contract comes to an end.

“We submit that it is evident from the record of proceedings that the respondent (/Uirab) did not voluntarily resign from the employment of the council. He was forced to resign due to the hostile work environment,” she said.

According to Mondo, the town council dismissed /Uirab’s claims, and in turn refused his five-month notice.

“… the conduct of the council by making the work environment for the respondent hostile constituted a material breach of the employment relationship,” she said.

The lawyer further argued “that the appellant only has itself to blame for terminating the respondent’s employment before the notice period had expired. Had the respondent allowed the notice period to run its course, the appellant would have had the opportunity to procedurally and substantively canvass the issue of the alleged unauthorised leave.”

However, Mondo said /Uirab accepts that the “amount he would pay to NHE would be included in his salary, which would form part of the award for payment of his salary in lieu of notice”.

Judge Miller postponed the matter to 17 July for judgment.

2024-05-21  Maria Sheya

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