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TAZARA workers down tools over salaries

UNIONISED workers at the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority [TAZARA] on the Zambian side have staged a sit-in protest following the government’s failure to pay them four months’ salaries.

Both Crews and Allied Workers Union of Zambia [CRAWUZ] president Bevis Silumbe and his Workers Union of TAZARA [WUTAZ] counterpart Bedwin Malowa confirmed the development in separate interviews on Monday evening.

Silumbe explained that the workers opted to down tools following the Zambian government’s failure to honour its obligation of paying them in spite of TAZARA management’s assurance by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to pay them in full and on time.

“No passenger train will move from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar-es-Salaam until all workers are paid in full. The strike action has been necessitated by the failure by the Zambian government to pay TAZARA workers on the Zambian side for four months now,” Silumbe explained. “I also wish to state that TAZARA workers on the Zambian side will not move any passenger or cargo train until their dues are paid in full.”

Silumbe explained that the labour movement at TAZARA had been trying to engage transport and communications minister Dr Brian Mushimba over the continued delayed salaries but their “efforts have been falling on deaf ears.”

“We have on several occasions been trying to have discussions on this matter with officials at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, particularly with the minister himself, but all our efforts have been in vein,” lamented Silumbe. “And the problem is not with management but with the Zambian government. We have been making efforts to engage Ministry of Transport and Communication officials on this issue, but all our efforts have been falling on deaf ears.”

And Malowa said his members have expressed dismay over the Zambian government’s decision to delay paying them salaries.

Malowa disclosed that management at TAZARA and the Zambian government had devised a mechanism “to pay workers in a phased manner.”

“What is currently happening is that management has been failing to pay TAZARA workers on the Zambian side on time. Right now we have not been paid for four months, hence this sit-in protest. What is obtaining on the ground is that government has decided to be paying workers in phases starting with those holding accounts with commercial banks, and not in full. The payments are being done in a phased manner. As a result WUTAZ members have expressed displeasure at this decision. And that is what has led to this strike action.”

Several councils around the country, Zambia Postal Services, National Housing Authority, among others have been paid salaries for months. Copperbelt University and the University of Zambia lecturers are threatening not to teach owing to delayed salaries.

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