DHAKA, Bangladesh – Staff at a Bangladeshi company set up by microfinance pioneer Mohammad Yunus are suing the Nobel laureate over millions of dollars in allegedly unpaid dues, their lawyer said Wednesday.
They say Grameen Telecom (GT), which holds a roughly one-third stake in Bangladesh's largest mobile-phone operator, had a legal obligation to share profits with its employees.
The cases filed by 10 former and current employees name Grameen Telecom and its chairman Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize after the success of his Grameen Bank in reducing poverty.
Lawyer Jafrul Hasan Sharif told AFP that GT reported profits of $260 million in the past decade but failed to pay staff their share.
"Under labor laws, Grameen Telecom must share 5% of its net profits with its employees and the government," he said.
"Its total due from 2006-2015 is 1.08 billion taka ($13.4 million) of which 80 percent should be paid equally to the the company's former and current employees," he added.
Managing director Ashraful Hassan, who is also named in the suit, said GT would fight the case and that all the profits had been ploughed back into the company.
"Their claim is not valid," Hassan said.
Yunus, Bangladesh's only Nobel laureate, could not immediately be reached for comment.
He set up Grameen Bank in 1983 to make collateral-free micro loans to rural entrepreneurs.
In 2011, he was forced off the bank's board in a move widely believed to have been orchestrated by Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Yunus had been at odds with her since 2007 when he made a brief foray into the country's highly polarised politics.
The celebrated former economics professor challenged his sacking in Bangladesh's highest court, but lost.
Hasina has accused Yunus of "sucking blood" from the poor, and in recent weeks suggested he was responsible for the World Bank pulling a $1.2 billion loan for a controversial bridge project.
In 2013, he was the subject of a state-backed hate campaign that painted him as un-Islamic and a spreader of homosexuality. – Rappler.com