MUTARE – Hundreds of disgruntled National Railways of Zimbabwe workers have dragged their employer to court over unfair labour practice amid suspicion of an unholy alliance between management and labour unions.
The workers are alleging that management working in cahoots with four labour unions representing workers is resisting the formation of a workers committee to champion issues affecting them.
NRZ workers here demonstrated for over three weeks over unpaid salaries stretching back to April 2014.
The matter is being presided over under by Labour Officer Mr. Charindeguta in arbitration Mutare Labour Office with both parties having served their submissions on July 7.
In their statement of claim the workers are alleging that as guided by the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 Section 23 which gives legal effect to the formation of a workers committee.
NRZ management led by the Eastern area personnel officer Thokozile Maseko are challenging the jurisdiction of the labour officer to handle the matter, citing that they have a designated agent to deal with such matters internally.
The workers have however rubbished those claims in a statement of reply to NRZ management arguing that “As noted our submissions of the statement of claim it is our contention that within the limits of the Labour Chapter 28:01 Section 7 (I) that “No person shall (a) Hinder, obstruct or prevent any employee from forming or conducting any workers committee for the purpose of airing any grievance negotiating any matter or advancing or protecting the rights or interests of the employees.
“It is therefore our humble application that with regards to the above section the NRZ Eastern Area Manager one Mr. Steve Mupondi instructed NRZ Mutare Engineer Bakasa on 12 June 2015 to stop workers from forming a committee to advance their interests.”
According to Linda Musarira who is leading the workers management caused the impasse after they barred a Labour Officer from assisting the workers in electing their committee on June 8 and barring workers from holding meetings on their premises.
She said management was working hand in glove with labour unionists at the expense of workers hence their decision to form a workers committee to champion their needs.
“What we are basically saying is that there are too many unions in the railways and they capitalize on the divisions that they have created with management at our expense as workers.
“So as workers we had decided to come up with workers committee so that workers will be unified under one basket and speak with one voice to the management,” she said.
There are four registered union representing NRZ worker namely the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railways Workers Unions (ZARU) Railway Association of Yard Operating Staff (RIYOS) Railway Artisans Union (RAU) and the Railways Association of Enginemen (RAE).
Masarira said there has been an unholy alliance between management and the workers unions who are also now denying workers their rights to resign.
She said a ZARU official identified as Mr. Mutonhodza came to threaten workers against forming a workers committee.
“As we speak ZARU is sitting on workers resignations despite the workers indicating that they no longer want to be part of the unions.
“Recently Mutonhodza wekuZARU came down and threaten people against joining workers committee,” she said.
Some workers have also made claims that these unions are holding regular meetings with management without resolving the issue of unpaid salaries.
They said the unions leaders go to Bulawayo for the Railways Employment Council (REC) meeting where there are given large perks to silence them.
“What is surprising is that these guys sit for REC meetings on a regular basis but nothing about our plight has changed.
“Since last year they have been meeting and deducting allowances for these meetings from our meager salaries,” said the disgruntled worker who declined to be named.
Efforts to get comments from the Mrs. Maseko were fruitless as she referred questions to her superiors in Buluwayo.