THE Government has released US$3 million (about K18 million) to clear the five-month salary arrears owed to workers at the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA).
The Government has also engaged various stakeholders in a bid to settle outstanding arrears for former Railway Systems of Zambia (RSZ) workers.
Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Minister Yamfwa Mukanga said at a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the $3 million was meant for the Zambian TAZARA workers.
Mr Mukanga said besides the five-month salary arrears, the other contributing factors to the TAZARA labour disharmony were lack of customer confidence, non-payment of retirees’ benefits, loss of business to other transport modes and lack of operational funds to run the business.
‘‘Arising from the above, I wish to inform the nation that the Government of the Republic of Zambia is committed to addressing the labour and operational challenges currently facing TAZARA in order to spur sustainable growth of the railway sector,’’ Mr Mukanga said. ‘‘In view of the above, the Government has released funds to clear all the outstanding salary arrears to normalise the operations of TAZARA on the Zambian side.’’
Mr Mukanga said Government was committed to securing more funds to dismantle the backlog of unpaid retirees’ benefits and for business operations in the near future.
Following the Government’s intervention, Mr Mukanga directed all TAZARA workers on the Zambian side to call off their strike forthwith. ‘‘I, therefore, urge all TAZARA workers on the Zambian side to resume work immediately without fail,’’ Mr Mukanga said.
‘‘Let me also take this opportunity to advise TAZARA workers that the Government will not be held to ransom by striking action, especially when the right channels are not followed.’’ Mr Mukanga said any action that disrupted industrial harmony led to losses on the part of the company like TAZARA, which was not making profit.
He said there was need to find innovative ways of reviving TAZARA together as shareholders and employees instead of resorting to strikes.
Mr Mukanga also said his ministry had engaged the Ministry of Finance, Zambia Railways and the union to work out modalities of settling outstanding arrears of former RSZ employees through the 2015 National Budget.
‘‘In this regard, I wish to assure all the affected workers that the Government is actively looking into their plight,’’ he said.
Mr Mukanga said the Government had invested heavily in Zambia Railways after terminating the concession with the RSZ to make it viable and profitable, adding that the investments were already bearing fruit.