Tazara board recalls 1,067 dismissed workers

Tazara Acting Managing Director, Ronald Phiri.jpg
Tazara Acting Managing Director, Ronald Phiri.jpg
Tazara Acting Managing Director, Ronald Phiri.jpg

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority Board of Directors yesterday reversed the management decision to sack 1,067 rail workers, accused of taking part in an illegal strike.

Tazara Acting Managing Director Ronald Phiri said the authority is reinstating the workers on condition that they resume work while the process of settling their four months’ salary arrears is effected.

Phiri told journalists that the management arrived at the decision after an in-depth discussion with the board.

“The workers have been reinstated and they are supposed to resume work while their salaries are being processed,” he said.

The MD warned that employees who fail to report to their work stations will be considered as having terminated their services with the authority.

According to him, the authority was yet to issue dismissal letters when the board changed its decision to sack them. But impeccable sources within the railway authority told this paper that some workers received their letters of dismissal on Wednesday evening, but they were almost immediately retrieved by the management.

Phiri said yesterday that the money for paying the workers has already been deposited in the Tazara account and therefore today all workers would received their one-month salaries through their personal accounts.

The authority needs over USD1.3m to cover the workers’ salaries for one month, but according to the MD the authority cannot raise all the money at once.

Phiri called upon both the governments of Tanzania and Zambia who are the shareholders to subsidise the rail so that it can operate effectively.

Making his apology to Tazara customers, he said the situation would stabilise and things would come to normalcy, urging them to “bank on their rail”.

Everything came to a halt on Friday last week after the employees went on strike for two consecutive days demanding payment of their salary arrears for the months of May, June, July and August this year.

On Tuesday the management descended heavily on them, dismissing almost 70 percent of the authority’s employees with immediate effect.

Those booked for dismissal were 826 workers in Tanzania Cost and Profit Centre, 120 in Dar es Salaam, 53 in Mbeya, 63 at Kongolo Quarry and five at the rail’s construction unit.

The authority also canceled passenger trains and refunded the travelers, claiming that the strike masterminded by leaders of the Tanzanian Railway Workers Union (TRAWU) without declaring their grievances to the management was an illegal act.

In a statement issued by TRAWU secretary general Erasto Kihwele, on Wednesday the employees called upon Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to intervene so that both sides involved in the dispute could be heard.

Besides, they vowed that they would not leave the authority’s premises unless they were paid all their money including terminal benefits.

Expressing disappointment on Tazara Managing Director Ronald Phiri’s statement given when dismissing the workers, Kihwele said if the authority could pay them their terminal benefits why not pay their monthly salaries instead.

When Tazara workers in Zambia went on strike that took 21 days for similar demands, the management did not take such harsh decision against them, he said in the letter.

An earlier statement issued by Tazara Head of Public Relations, Conrad Simuchile had said that the shareholding governments were aware of the situation and had discussed plans during the last council of ministers’ meeting to ensure that the aithority’s operations are improved and made sustainable through the re-capitalisation.