Maybe for other reasons, but able to serve as an example? The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) 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 spokesperson said yesterday. 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 spokesperson 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 August 23, complaining salaries had not been paid since May, 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 August 26 and Tuesday, August 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.