NRZ offloads contract workers

BULAWAYO - Financially-troubled National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has reportedly decided to offload all contract employees, as the parastatal seeks to slash its wage bill.

The transport and freight utility has been battling to timeously pay its employees.

A number of employees found themselves out of employment at the beginning of September and this month following the parastatal’s decision not to renew their contracts.

 NRZ public relations manager, Fanuel Masikati, confirmed the development but could not be drawn into disclosing how many employees had been affected.

“That is the decision that we have since taken. We have resolved to terminate all contract workers in order to reduce costs as we are no longer employing as the National Railways,” Masikati said.

He said the parastatal continued to operate under adverse conditions owing to depressed industrial activity in the country, prompting the decision to cut the wage bill.

“We really sympathise with those workers but there is nothing we can do as NRZ because that is beyond our control,” he said.

NRZ is also weighed down by five months’ salary arrears owed to more than 7 000 employees.

The parastatal needs about $2 billion to fully recapitalise its operations but securing such essential funding appears to be a pipe dream at a time when the rail transporter is failing to raise $400 million to rehabilitate critical areas.

The NRZ reportedly revised downwards its target to move 6,8 million metric tonnes of goods this year to 3,8 million tonnes owing to the current economic challenges.

 The once vibrant company is dogged challenges ranging from depressed performance of the economy, liquidity crunch in the market, power outages and breakdown of aging equipment.

The rail infrastructure has deteriorated markedly over the past decade when the country experienced sanctions-induced economic meltdown leading to sharp decline in service levels from a design capacity of 18 million tonnes per year to around 5,3 million tonnes currently.

About $750 000 and $20 000 is required to refurbish a locomotive and a wagon respectively.

Heavy industries highly depend on the smooth operation of the railway sector for bulk movement of raw materials and products.

Government recently indicated that it was planning to restructure the parastatal in a bid to turn around its fortunes.

Under the proposed turnaround strategy for the NRZ, the loss-making entity would be unbundled into three companies dealing with infrastructure, freight and passenger services, whose operations and management will be totally divorced from each other.

State Enterprises and Parastatals minister Gorden Moyo recently said government was considering a range of policies that included privatisation as efforts to turn around the sector.

“We are studying various methods of recapitalising the railways sector which include inviting new players,” he said.

“We need to get resources, financially, human resources and equipment,” he added.

Moyo said government had since formed a committee to craft strategies for revitalising the railways sector.

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