Rehoboth fights $1 million payment to former CEO

Rehoboth City Council is in Superior Court fighting the $1 million compensation it must pay to former CEO Christoph /Uirab following an arbitrator’s award.

The city council claims that the arbitrator was wrong to award /Uirab a total of N$1,031,336.37 and requests that the award be set aside.

On September 15, 2022, an arbitrator ordered the council to pay N$219,110 for four months’ salary, N$161,856 for leave gratuity, N$102,967.90 for prorated bonus and N$536,726.86 for loss of vehicle.

The arbitrator also ordered the council to pay N$102,967.90 for the arrears/Uirab accrued at his home from the National Housing Company.

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

The arbitrator noted that /Uirab received unfair treatment when he resigned on June 28, 2018, giving five months’ notice.

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

“…taking into account the labor injustice that Mr. Christoph /Uirab suffered at the hands of the Rehoboth City Council, it is up to this court to issue compensation for the losses he suffered with respect to his house and his motor vehicle,” Dionisio Louw, the referee, said at that time.

/Uirab took the council to the labor commissioner after he rejected his five-month notice of resignation and opted for him to use the one-month notice. He claimed that his former employer illegally deducted sick and annual leave days from his pay.

However, the city council, through its lawyer Hafeni Hamunyela, argued before Judge Kobus Miller that the arbitrator was wrong, in law, to consider that there was an illegal deduction of the days of leave in the absence of evidence that the leave was approved.

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

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

Regarding compensation for the car payment, Hamunyela said it amounts to a doubling as his monthly salary of N$54,777.47 already includes the car allowance.

/Uirab’s 2013 model Amarok car was allegedly repossessed by the bank after he defaulted on the car loan payments.

Hamunyela further said that the award of N$102,967.90 as housing allowance is misleading as it is also included in the monthly salary.

“We say this because the arbitrator has already awarded the first respondent (/Uirab) the sum of N$219,110, an amount which is made up of the monthly salary for four months, including housing allowance and motor vehicle allowance,” he argued. .

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

Uirab’s attorney, Rachel Mondo, said Uirab resigned from his job due to tremendous victimization, wrongful suspensions, psychological trauma and an unconducive work environment.

He said the council was wrong to reject /Uirab’s five-month notice, as the law allows him to give such notice before his contract ends.

“We hold that it is clear from the record of the proceedings that the respondent (/Uirab) did not voluntarily resign from his position on the council. He was forced to resign due to the hostile work environment,” he said.

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

“…the council’s conduct in making the work environment for the respondent hostile constituted a material breach of the employment relationship,” it said.

Counsel further argued “that the appellant is only to blame for having dismissed the respondent 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 analyze the issue of the alleged unauthorized license.”

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 compensation for payment of his salary in lieu of notice.”

Judge Miller adjourned the matter until July 17 for sentencing.

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