Malawi charity workers sue Madonna over payments

LILONGWE Sun Mar 27, 2011 1:24pm EDT

Singer Madonna arrives at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, California February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Singer Madonna arrives at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood, California February 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

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LILONGWE (Reuters) - Eight workers at Madonna's Malawi charity are suing the pop star for unfair dismissal and non-payment of their benefits, their lawyer said on Sunday.

The board of the charity, Raising Malawi, was sacked after abandoning plans to build a state of the art girls' school just outside the capital Lilongwe due to mismanagement, the New York Times newspaper reported on Saturday.

Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi, lent $11 million to the organization and is now on the board.

The workers' lawyer, Mzondi Chirambo, said Madonna had 14 days to respond to their concerns.

"Their employment was terminated by the trustees of Raising Malawi Academy for Girls ostensibly following the change of plan not to build the school as planned," Chirambo said.

"My clients are also being forced to sign a discriminatory termination agreement before they are paid their benefits."

Chirambo said one of the workers he represented was the chief executive of the school, some taught Jewish Kabbalah mysticism while the others were connected to the school project.

The papers were filed with the Industrial Court, which handles labor disputes.

Madonna's U.S. representative was not immediately available for comment.

The New York Times said the plan to build the school had collapsed after $3.8 million was spent with little to show for it. Its executive director left in October amid criticism of his management style and cost overruns. (Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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