THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has suspended the 25% cost of living adjustment it awarded its employees at the beginning of the year resulting in the workers’ union seeking redress thro
ugh labour arbitration.
The labour dispute went for arbitration on Friday last week, after the two parties failed to reconcile during an initial arbitration.
Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railways Union (Zaru) secretary-general Gideon Shoko confirmed that the matter had gone for compulsory arbitration.
“The NRZ unilaterally decided to withdraw the cost of living adjustment (Cola) it awarded workers,” said Shoko. “We feel that since the cost of living adjustment was awarded after negotiations between the workers and the employer, it is illegal for the employer to unilaterally withdraw the allowance.”
The NRZ, crippled by a huge salary bill and a non-viable business environment, last month delayed in paying workers’ salaries owing to lack of funds.
“The parties failed to agree on Friday and the matter has been referred for compulsory arbitration,” Shoko said.
The troubled parastatal, after failing to pay the cost of living adjustment to workers for the month of April, then informed workers that it would instead pay the workers cash in lieu of leave days only.
“Under Section 93 of the Amended Labour Relations Act the NRZ violated the agreement we reached at the beginning of the year during negotiations by withdrawing the 25% without notice and we do not even know when and how they will pay for the leave days,” Shoko said.
Sources within NRZ said the company had also frozen promotions and recruitment of staff in a bid to contain the ballooning wage bill that saw it pay its workers in two tranches at the beginning of May long after pay day.
“The situation is very bad. Management has shelved the hiring of new people yet we have critical positions in signals and communications that have to be filled as a matter of urgency because the vacancies there compromise the safety of the travelling public,” said a source.
The parastatal has also banned overtime payments to staff and has introduced a stringent clocking-in system at all levels.
The NRZ is paying R6 million in monthly charges to Spoornet for wagons the cash-strapped rail company is failing to return.
The NRZ, which has embarked on a $30 billion recapitalisation exercise, has 60 usable locomotives when it needs 108 to operate viably.
“NRZ management violated a standing labour agreement and there is no way we are going to agree to that and if we are not happy with the decision we will appeal to the Labour Court,” said Shoko.