(By Isaac Zulu in Kapiri Mposhi)
NO amount of intimidation will top TAZARA workers from demanding what rightly belongs to them, says Crews and Allied Workers’ Union of Zambia president Bevis Silumbe.
In an interview, Silumbe explained that there were manoeuvres by TAZARA management to use the Zambia Police officers to intimidate unionised workers to call off their sit-in protest staged more than 14 days ago to press for payment of their three months’ salary arrears.
He stressed that the protesting workers would not succumb to any pressure until their demands are met.
“We are aware that there are manoeuvres by TAZARA management to use the Zambia Police officers to intimidate unionised workers that have staged a sit-in protest over unpaid salaries. This can be attested to by the fact that our union members that had gathered to press for their unpaid salaries in Mpika district were dispersed when management unleashed Zambia Police officers on them,” explained Silumbe. “But we wish to state that no amount of intimidation will stop TAZARA workers from demanding for what rightly belongs to them. Instead of intimidating the workers, we expect the Zambian government to live up to its obligation of paying workers as is the case with their counterparts in Tanzania…. There’s nothing illegal about this action that has been taken by TAZARA workers. The labour laws are clear on this issue. The employer has an obligation to pay the worker at the end of the month. In case of any delay, the law gives the employer an allowance of five days in which to pay the employee.”
And Silumbe disclosed that the leaders of the labour movements at TAZARA would be meeting labour minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko with a view to charting the way forward on the work stoppage that has adversely affected operations at the rail company from Kapiri Mposhi to Nakonde.
“I would also want to say that as union leaders, we have been making frantic efforts to engage the Minister of Transport and Communications [Dr Brian Mushimba] so that we can discuss challenges facing TAZARA and the perennial delayed payment of salaries to workers. But our efforts have always proved futile,” said Silumbe. “In the same vein, I would like to confirm that we will be meeting the labour minister in the course of next week so that we can chart the way forward on the sit-in protest by unionised TAZARA workers.”