NRZ workers’ woes continue

Workers at beleaguered national rail operator the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) are up in arms with the management after it emerged that a solution to their salary woes could still be a long way off.

Obert Mpofu
Obert Mpofu

The workers are unhappy over salary arrears that go back as far as April 2013. Those who spoke to The Zimbabwean argued that the company had recorded increased tonnage in the second half of 2013, a fact acknowledged by the parastatal’s acting general manager, Lewis Mukwada, in a notice sent to all branch and area offices and stations.

In the notice, Mukwada said that the increases “were not sufficient to allow the organisation to review the 75 per cent to 50 per cent range of the current predictable net salary payment plan on a sustainable basis” and were below 2012 levels.

The workers explained to The Zimbabwean that under the payment plan, workers were getting their salaries nine months in arrears with an employee entitled to $190 a month receiving only $150.

“This means that this January we were paid our salaries for April 2013, and those salaries were also slashed,” another worker said, adding that the salaries had never been reviewed since they were adopted after dollarisation in 2009.

Mukwada said that a “sustained weekly volume of 100,000 tonnes would enable us to review the percentages of salaries banked. While a sustained weekly tonnage of 120,000 would facilitate the banking of full net salaries.”

According to Mukwada’s notice, the highest weekly tonnage achieved in 2013 was 99,000 tonnes “but this was just for one week and before volumes subsequently started coming down as we entered the off-peak period”.

He explained that this level of tonnage had only helped NRZ to stabilise its fuel supply for trains, send funds to Railmed and the pension fund and make payment plans with bodies such as NSSA and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

The workers were also not happy with transport minister Obert Mpofu, whom they said was not doing as much as his counterpart Jonathan Moyo.

“We are now looking with envy at what is happening at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. It’s painful to note that even though ZBC workers had gone for six months without pay, our problems have been going on for longer,” one worker said.

Mpofu last year said that he would need at least one year to turn around the fortunes of the NRZ and instructed the company not to lay off any more workers. The company has only 6,000 workers now from a peak of 23,000.

Contacted for comment on the grievances, Mpofu urged the workers to be patient.

“NRZ has not been capitalised and efforts are being done to rehabilitate and capitalise the institution and this cannot be done in a short time and the workers have been told about the situation. They have to be patient until investors are found,” Mpofu said.

Experts say NRZ needs at least $2bn to recapitalise and modernise its operations.

According to Mukwadi, in 2014 NRZ’s tonnage continued its downward trend with the first three weeks of January recording figures below 50,000 tonnes each.

He said the company’s position had been “worsened by the flooding of the coal mines, which is the major business we currently rely on”.

Mukwadi’s correspondence showed that the salary payment system was likely to stay for some time to the disappointment of the workers.

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