July 1 last year was the day that the court officially opened to the public. However, hearing of the cases did not kick off as expected reason being that there were no funds.
But three months later, the Finance ministry released funds and the court that is headed by Justice Asaph Ntengye Ruhinda, who is called the chief judge, on November 4, commenced hearing the cases. The other judge of the court is Lillian Tumusiime Mugisha.
Justice Ntengye says currently the court is holding a session aimed at disposing of more than 20 cases by close of December.
According to the Acting Deputy Registrar of the court Gladys Nakibuule the court has so far received 249 files that were referred to it from the Civil Division of the High Court that are labour related in nature.
Further breaking down the nature of files that the court has received so far, Nakibuule said 10 files were directly filed by litigants at the court registry, 11 files were referred to it by the Gender and Labor ministry which is the line ministry, 11 files are for appeal from the gender ministry and five files are applications.
Outgoing Deputy Registrar of the Civil Division of the High Court Charles Emuria had in an earlier interview with this newspaper explained that it’s only those labour related files that had not been heard that were to be referred to the revived Industrial Court.
He explained that those files, 83 in number, that had been partly heard by the judges at the Civil Division were to remain behind and be heard to their logical conclusion.
But the Chief Judge is optimistic that with the reviving of the Industrial Court, Ugandans will have job security amidst the rampant unemployment on grounds that the nature of arbitration in this set up is amicable as compared to the traditional way of litigation in other courts.He stressed that the court plays a big role in social development by minimising on exploding strikes by workers who could have had accumulated labour discontent that were unresolved for a long time.
The court was established under section 7 of the Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act, 2006 to settle unresolved disputes between employers and trade unions over terms and conditions of employment.
Nakibuule mentioned some of the common registered labour disputes as employer to employee relations, dismissals, salary arrears, among others.
However, not all is rosy, the labour court has so far faced a number of challenges.
Justice Ruhinda explained that most of the support staff like the process servers, court clerks, have not been approved in the ministry of Public Service structure.
He added that even the registrar of the court who is the administrator of the court is just borrowed from the main stream judiciary as she is not properly employed according to the court’s rules.
Limited courtroom space, and litigants not knowing the physical location of the court are some of the other bottlenecks that the court is experiencing.
In an earlier interview with Dr Sam Lyomoki who is also the Secretary General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Coftu), he said the reviving of the court was attributed to the pressure from mainly labour organisations following increasing labor disputes between employees and employers.
Dr Lyomoki attributed the prolonged inactiveness of the court to the appointing authority — President Museveni– for delaying to appoint judges to hear the cases.
Pius Bigirimana speaks out
The brain behind the revival of this court is the permanent secretary ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Pius Bigirimana.
In a recent interview with this newspaper, Bigirimana explained of how he saw it prudent to have the court revived immediately he assumed his new office about two years ago.
He said there were so many labour related disputes that he saw it urgent to revive the industrial court to hear those cases.
“I found it necessary to revive the industrial court as there were so many workers disputes like occupational saftey, lack of protective gears among others..” said Bigirimana
He added: “Because of lack of the Industrial Court, some people like ministers had hijacked the situation and were politicising it which was not good”
Explaining his crucial role in the revival of the l court, Bigirimana said he contacted the Judicial Service Commission to hunt for two judges of the court.
He added he even sat on the interviewing panel that interviewed the candidates for the judges’ positions.
When asked on what could have led to the closure of the court initially.
Bigirimana did not have a definite answer but said it could have been due to lack of attention, funding and personnel.
About the court
The Industrial Court was established under the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act, 1964 to settle unresolved disputes between employers and trade unions over terms and conditions of employment.
The court was further established under section 7 of the Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) Act, 2006. The Court is headed by High Court Judge who is now called Chief Judge.
Its purpose is to arbitrate on labour disputes by aggrieved parties whose complaints have not been settled by eitheror District Labour Officers and the Commissioner for Labour.
The court has the same status as a High Court and its administrative head is the registrar of courts.
The decision of the Industrial Court on a matter is final. However, appeals to the Court of Appeal on a point of law or whether the court had the jurisdiction to hear a case can be made by a party which is not satisfied with the court’s decision.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor