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Monday, June 27, 2022

TAZARA workers ask for improved working conditions

Economy TAZARA workers ask for improved working conditions

The Workers’ Union of the Zambia Tanzania Railway Authority (TAZARA) has implored management at the railway company to actualize the USD 500 million worth Bankable Business Plan recently formulated by the Board of Directors to address various operational challenges currently facing the company.

Union President, Bevis Silumbe explained that the Bankable Business Plan presents an opportunity for the railway company to be self-sustaining to reduce its overdependence on the two shareholding governments of Tanzania and Zambia to perpetually bail it out in meeting operational costs and paying salaries for the workforce.

Mid last year, the TAZARA Board of Directors approved a three year Bankable Business Plan aimed at ensuring that the rail company runs as a viable entity.

Some of Plan’s components include the procurement of locomotives and wagons for the Rail Company as well as consistent payment of salaries for TAZARA workers.

Speaking when he addressed Unionized workers who are agitating a work stoppage to press payment of their five month salary arrears, Mr Silumbe noted that the railway company will continue to experience operational challenges and fail to pay workers unless it implements the Plan which he says proves to be a lasting solution to the challenges the company is currently faced with.

Mr Silumbe noted that TAZARA needs recapitalization in order to ensure that the railway company runs as a self-sustainable and viable entity.

He also called for the placement of TAZARA workers on the government payroll on the Zambian side, as is the case in Tanzania.

“One of the ways to address this perennial delayed payment of salaries for TAZARA workers is to put TAZARA employees on government payroll, like is the case with our colleagues on the Tanzanian side. The other permanent solution for the Zambian government to address the challenges facing TAZARA operations lies in serious recapitalisation of this rail company. And this involves actualising the Bankable Business Plan that was recently formulated by the Board of Directors at TAZARA,” Mr Silumbe said.

And Mr Silumbe has commended the government for releasing funds to pay two months’ salary arrears for the months of December 2021 and January 2022.

Mr. Silumbe further appealed to the government to help the railway company offset the five-month arrears noting that the money released to pay two months salary arrears was not enough to address the challenges the workers were currently going through.

” What the government has released is enough to offset two salary arrears and not five months and it’s not enough because what we are getting paid is only net pay and not gross and workers have accumulated loan obligations meaning they’ll still get nothing,” explained Mr Silumbe.

Meanwhile, TAZARA Head of Human Resources, John Tembo explained that for TAZARA to reach its break-even point to start running as a self-sustainable and viable entity, it has to start hauling over 650,000 metric tonnes of cargo annually.

He disclosed that, the current locomotives and wagons that TAZARA has, if utilized to capacity, can only enable TAZARA transport heavy cargo amounting to a maximum of 250,000 metric tonnes per annum.

“Currently we can only ferry about 200,000 Mt with our current equipment and with this we cannot meet our operations and we will still go back to government to beg so what we need is simply recapitalization,” Mr Tembo said.

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