By Christine Kasemiire
Kampala — The management of the 300-room Pearl of Africa Hotel on Nakasero Hill, in central Kampala, has ordered all its employees to sign fresh contracts as casual labourers.
In a September 1 notice, the hotel’s human resource manager, Mr Lawrence Kulanga, informed employees that a new investor, which this newspaper was told is the US hotel chain Wyndham, will take over operations by October.
“During the transition period, you will be hired as a casual worker under evaluation and you will be paid as necessary,” Mr Kulanga wrote in the new contract every staff is being obliged to sign if they wish to keep in some form of employment.
Affected employees and a labour union representing hotel workers reacted to the news with consternation and anger, particularly management’s unilateral decision to re-designate employees contrary to terms of their original job contracts.
“For the current employer to deem the workers casual means he has terminated the services of the workers since they are [to be] subjected to new interviews,” said Mr Stephen Mugole, the general secretary of the Hotels & Allied Workers Union.
The new operator of the hotel, he said, should take over existing employees.
In the notice, Pearl of Africa Hotel management noted that individual employees who accept to become casual workers could be eligible to be re-interviewed by the new operator for possible job offers.
A final decision would be at the discretion of the new management and subject to the profile of staff it is scouting to run its services at its own standard, the management said.
Pearl of Africa Hotel, according to Aya Group chairman Mohammed Hamid, employs 500 staff.
This revelation contradicts his earlier account in a May 2013 interview with this newspaper during which he said they would be employing “1,350 Ugandans working in three shifts of 450 (employees) per day”.
In yesterday’s interview, Mr Hamid said the hotel that began operations as Aya and briefly adopted the Hilton Hotel brand before re-branding as Pearl of Africa Hotel will trade as Wyndham Hotel Kampala.
Mr Mugole last evening said they will petition the Labour ministry today to seek an explanation from the hotel management that he said is liable to pay terminal benefits to all its staff.