The strike by National Railways of Zimbabwe employees yesterday entered its second day with the matter being referred to Labour and Social Welfare minister Paurina Gwanyanya-Mupariwa, after labour officers in Bulawayo reportedly failed to resolve the salaries deadlock.
Over 1 000 workers yesterday gathered at the Raylton Recreation Club in Bulawayo and at the main station in Harare from 8am to be addressed by their union leaders who had gone for further negotiations at the labour offices.
Railway Artisans’ Union president Shadreck Mutakura said: “The matter is now being held by the minister and we expect to get her decision on the matter before end of the day,” he said.
NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati also confirmed the development. “Yes, the matter has been referred to the minister, but I am yet to be briefed on the issue. You can call sometime later for more details,” he said.
The negotiations started on Tuesday after the workers downed tools demanding payment of outstanding salaries, allowances and a general improvement of their working conditions.
Mupariwa told NewsDay on Wednesday afternoon the matter had not yet been brought to her attention.
“It is not yet here. We will see when it gets here,” she said.
Four NRZ workers’ unions, namely Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers’ Union, Railway Artisans’ Union, Railway Association of Enginemen (Rae) and Railway Association of Yard Operating Staff coordinated the strike.
Rae president Norman Simba accused the NRZ management of entering into negotiations in bad faith.
“They are now circulating a weekly notice which says the workers’ strike is illegal while the negotiations are still going on.
“We challenged that at the negotiations. How can they declare a position while negotiations are still going on?”
About 9 000 NRZ workers across the country went on strike complaining over the alleged violation of their collective bargaining agreements, health safety crisis, salary delays and outstanding allowances for February to December 2009.
Early this month the disgruntled workers gave their employer a 14-day notice of intention to strike over alleged continuous violations.
The NRZ reportedly agreed with the workers on amortisation of their outstanding allowances from February to December 2009, but the former allegedly reneged several times thereafter, prompting the current stand-off.