August 27, 2013 / 4:47 PM / 4 years ago

Tanzanian-Zambian rail firm sacks 1,000 unpaid striking workers

DAR ES SALAAM, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority has sacked more than 1,000 workers who went on strike last week demanding payment of unpaid wages, paralysing a line that carries freight and passengers, a TAZARA spokesman said on Tuesday.

TAZARA said the strike had affected the transport of copper from Zambia to Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam port for export.

“Over 12 trains are stuck along the line, including copper, manganese and cement destined for Dar es Salaam and fertiliser, bitumen and sulphur for the mines,” said spokesman Conrad Simuchile.

Elsewhere on the continent, South Africa is facing a wave of strikes, but that is over demands for higher pay rather than non-payment of salaries. In the TAZARA case, sacking workers seeking payment of wages appeared an unusually strong step.

A TAZARA statement said the workers decided to walk out on Aug. 23, complaining salaries since May had not been paid, but they had done so without following procedures, “which means the strike is illegal.”

TAZARA acknowledged some staff had not been paid since May but blamed this on years of inadequate investment that meant the business was struggling. However, it said the two government shareholders would provide working capital to sustain operations and pay wages while a long-term solution was found.

It said unionised workers had taken an “uncompromising position” by refusing to talk or work until outstanding salaries were paid. This meant no cargo was moving in or out of Tanzania and all passenger trains had been cancelled.

It said this caused losses to the firm of $150,000 a day.

“With immediate effect, 1,067 employees that opted to abandon the duties and have been reported as not working on Monday Aug. 26 and Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 have been dismissed and their services are no longer required,” the firm said.

Simuchile said positions would be re-advertised and only those that met “application criteria” would be re-employed. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng‘wanakilala; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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