HUNDREDS of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers, who downed tools on Tuesday, have vowed to stay put at the parastatal’s various premises across the country until their outstanding salaries have been paid.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA/MTANDAZO NYONI
The workers, who are reportedly owed 15 months’ salaries each, yesterday rejected an offer by management to pay them between $175 and $350.
Workers who spoke to NewsDay at the Rugare despatch and reception yard in Harare, where some of them were camped, said management did not care for their welfare.
“The paltry figures they are offering compared to what they owe us shows they do not care. We owe rentals and school fees and our families are starving yet they want to give us $175. Some will not get a cent because they are servicing loans,” one striking worker, said.
“We appeal to well-wishers for food and any other assistance they may render because it appears we are going to be here for a long time.”
More than 4 000 workers have reportedly downed tools across the country bringing to a halt operations including the transportation of imported wheat and drought relief maize.
A document signed by NRZ acting general manager, Lewis Mukwada said the organisation continued to experience plummeting traffic levels, which had negatively impacted on income.
“All employees are enjoined to play their part in the imminent movement of grain imports, which is expected to have a positive impact on the organisation’s cash inflows and the capacity to pay salaries. Any disruption in the movement of maize will result in road hauliers moving all the grain given the current cut-throat competition due to limited business availability,” he wrote.
NRZ spokesperson, Fanuel Masikati confirmed the organisation was being crippled by lack of business.
“We are geared to move grain to the drought-stricken areas of the country. We need more business because at the moment the volumes are not enough. We are appealing for more business from the government so that we can be able to meet our financial obligations,” he said.
An NRZ source told NewsDay that government was reluctant to give NRZ business, as it had contracted close to
1 800 trucks to transport grain from Beira.
“If that tender had been given to NRZ, we were not going to be the same. We need money to pay our workers. It’s really painful because it shows that the government is not sincere about reviving NRZ,” the source said.
“When they hire those trucks they pay them on time, but if it’s NRZ they don’t want to pay. Surely, how can we survive? They don’t even want to repair the railway line yet on the other hand they would be busy saying they are committed to revive NRZ.”
There have been complaints that some senior government officials own trucks that were being used to conduct business supposed to be done by the NRZ.
The government, together with the private sector, plans to import about 700 000 metric tonnes of maize to cater for deficits as a result of a poor harvest last season.
NRZ is saddled with a $144 million debt with workers owed more than $68 million.