Court dismisses prison officer’s application for 96m/- dues

THE High Court’s Labour Division has dismissed the application by Assistant Inspector of Prisons Geruntius Rwekaza, claiming his outstanding of 96m/- employment payments, allegedly withheld by the Commissioner General of Prisons.

Judge Yose Mlyambina ruled against Rwekaza, the applicant, after upholding one ground of objection raised by the Commissioner General of Prisons and the Attorney General, the respondents, that the court lacked jurisdictions to entertain such labour dispute.

“It is absolutely clear that this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the application. Consequently, the application is hereby dismissed with no order as to costs,” the judge ruled.

During hearing of the point of objection, the applicant and the respondents locked horns on whether the Court had jurisdiction to hear such labour matter. While the counsel for the applicant answered such question in the affirmative, the counsel for the respondents was to the contrary view.

The counsel for the respondents had submitted that the Court has no jurisdiction to determine the matter in terms of Section 2(l)(iii) of the Employment and Labour Relations Act (ELRA). She added that the applicant being employee of the Prisons Service is excluded to make an application to the Court.

She contended that the Prisons Service has a special law regulating affairs applicable to prisons officers which is the Police Force, Prisons Service, Fire and Rescue Force and Immigration Service Commission Act.

It was her view that the applicant being a prison officer with a rank of Assistant Inspector of Prisons is excluded from filing his application under the Labour Laws in the Labour Court.

On the other hand, the counsel for the applicant replied that the Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter due to the nature of the case of nonpayment of salaries and other entitled allowance.

He added that if the first Respondent had ollowed procedure by conducting disciplinary committee and give the decision as per Police Force and Prisons Services Commission Act and the Prison Services Regulation of 1997, the Applicant could have a room to file his application to the High Court.

In his ruling delivered recently, the judge agreed that the Court deals with labour matters and uses labour laws on determination of the disputes thereof, as provided for under Section 51 of the Labour Institutions Act.

He was, however, quick to point out that there is a significant feature under Section 2(1) of the ELRA, which provides for the application on all other categories of employees with exceptions of Members of Prisons Army, including the Prisons Service.

The judge noted that the applicant in his affidavit claimed that the salary arears happened as a result of his course attendance at the Mzumbe University without permission of his employer. It was his submission that not only his salaries were retained but also later terminated.

Such act, he said, was a disciplinary one, whose authority in the case of any Police Officer of the rank of Assistant Inspector to the rank of Assistant Commissioner is placed on the Inspector General and the final disciplinary authority is vested in the Commission.

The judge was his views that the applicant being aggrieved with the act done by the Commissioner General of Prisons, which resulted to retaining of his salary, was supposed to have referred the matter to the Inspector General and, thereafter, refer the matter to the Commission.

“It is the findings of this Court that it was wrong for the applicant to file the application to this Court. Indeed, his application was contrary to Section 2(1) of ELRA, Regulation C 3(1) of Cap 241 and Section 7(3) of the Police Force and Prison Services Commission Act,” he said.

Assistant Inspector Geruntius Rwekaza was employed by the Commissioner General of Prisons in 2007. He alleged that the contract was in renewable terms. Later in November 2015, he was elected to join Mzumbe University to pursue first degree in Bachelor of Human Resource Management for three years.

The Applicant alleged to have been permitted by his employer to attend his course and promised that the letter will follow. While in the course of waiting the permission, on January 29, 2016 was unfairly terminated. Thereafter, his name was removed from payroll.

It was further alleged that on March 15, 2016, the Applicant was instructed by the Commissioner to write an apology letter. He was re-instated on May 10, 2016. He continued with his course until 2018 but his salaries and ration allowances were stopped by July, 2019.

From August, 2019 to April, 2022, he was paid fully but later on the payment stopped. Thereafter, the applicant was being paid monthly ration allowances and package only.

The applicant, therefore, filed the application in question, seeking for grant of an order preventing his employer from retaining or withholding his monthly salary, release his 53 months’ salary arears and paying all his outstanding claims totaling 96,392,000/=.

Such claims included monthly ration allowance 44,410,000/=, transportation from Dar es Salaam-Bukoba-Dar es Salaam 10,558,000/=, disturbance allowances 8,040,000/=, loan from bank, monthly salary arears, allowance from April to February, 2023 and transportation from Segerea Prison-Kitwanga- Kigoma 7,014,000/-.

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