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Striking NRZ Workers Divided as Some Return to Work

  • Jonga Kandemiiri

Some of the protesting NRZ workers in Harare on Friday, May 20, 2016. (Photo: Thomas Chiripasi)

Some of the protesting NRZ workers in Harare on Friday, May 20, 2016. (Photo: Thomas Chiripasi)

Divisions have rocked striking workers of the National Railways of Zimbabwe as some of them have heeded a 24-hour ultimatum to return to work issued by the company last week Thursday while some have vowed to continue with the industrial action until their grievances are met.

The workers have been demanding outstanding salaries backdating to 2015.

This came amid revelations from NRZ chairman Larry Mavhima that the parastatal was losing $250,000 a day and has already lost over $14 million ever since some of its workers went on strike end of March.

Kenneth Nhemachena, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers’ Union said although the strike was continuing, some workers have decided to return to work in compliance with Labour Minister Prisca Mupfumira’s Show Cause Order and the NRZ’s ultimatum issued last Thursday.

The parastatal said in the notice to return to work that it shall invoke appropriate provisions of the Labour Act, NRZ Code of Conduct as well as other applicable laws if the workers did not heed the call.

“From our side we haven’t have yet received any employee who has come forward saying I’ve been charged by the employer. So we are still waiting to hear and see whether they are going to be fired,” added Nhemachena.

He said workers will continue to fight for their rights despite minor setbacks they are currently facing.

“The majority are still on strike demanding their fifteen months salary. They are adamant about that. They are saying we could rather get fired than going back to work,” Nhemachena said.

Reacting to these reports, NRZ spokesman Fanuel Masikati refused to shed light on the issue and asked Studio 7 to call him Thursday for an update on the strike.

However, Nhemachena said they have been invited by the NRZ board to a meeting on Thursday, though he was not yet aware of the topic they will be discussing.

But economist Masimba Kuchera, who is the director of the Centre for Disability and Development, said the continued strike by the NRZ workers has a serious impact on the country’s economy.

“It has a serious impact if it’s allowed to continue. Remember that it is far much cheaper to transport goods using rail transport,” Kuchera said.

He said in the long run the prices of goods and services, especially goods that come from what is being transported by the National Railways of Zimbabwe could eventually go up because the costs of transporting coal or maize will have rapidly increased if the country moves from railway to road.