National Railways of Zimbabwe faces artisans exodus challenge

THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has lost several of its skilled staff in the face of operational challenges that have forced qualified workers to seek greener pastures outside the country.

Zimbabwe Railways Artisans Union (RAU) president, Mr Edmore Africa, said this at a media briefing in Bulawayo on Tuesday.

He told journalists that workers were pinning their hopes on the ongoing recapitalisation efforts, which are expected to help the company acquire new equipment and improve working conditions of artisans.

Mr Africa said workers at NRZ do not feel safe at the work place.

“The recapitalisation project will help the company to buy spares and new locomotives because right now as artisans we do not feel safe at the work place.

Our job security is compromised. The state of the locomotives is not conducive for us to work as artisans,” he said.

“More artisans are needed because currently we are short staffed. In 2015 they retrenched more artisans and some went outside the country in search of greener pastures. Under the recapitalisation project more artisans are needed to do the job and new machinery will help us to work in a safer environment to help the NRZ generate work.”

NRZ is a pivotal player in the transportation sector with a rail network stretching 2 760km across Zimbabwe and at the centre of Southern Africa — surrounded by South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.

The NRZ network provides a vital link between landlocked countries like Zambia and DRC as well as seaports in Mozambique and South Africa.

According to a Zimbabwe Visitor Exit Survey (VES) for the year 2015/2016, a number of tourists are keen to enter the country using the railway transport system but the dilapidated railway system in the country is one of the major setbacks that frustrate growth in the tourism sector.

Last month, the Government granted national project status to the recapitalisation of the NRZ to the tune of $400 million through an open tender financing process and the tender has attracted more than 80 private bidders, setting the stage for the giant parastatal’s turnaround.

Mr Africa said the other challenge bedevilling the railway company was lack of safety and protective clothing.

“As for me I was last issued with safety clothing in 2015. Every year as an artisan I’m entitled to get two pairs of safety overalls and shoes. At the present moment there is nothing.

“They (NRZ) are quiet and they tell us there is no money but the company policy and the Labour Act are very clear about health and safety.

“Workers have the right to go on strike if these issues are not addressed but as for us we don’t want to do that because we are the intended beneficiaries of the recapitalisation project and we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said.

Mr Africa said workers expect more accountability from the railway company and demanded to know the results of the forensic audit that was completed recently. — @Kiyaz_Cool.

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Source: The Chronicle

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