Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TAZARA services crippled by fund transfer hurdles

Tanzania and Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) workers have called on the two governments to rescue the carrier financially, saying it can neither buy fuel for its routine passenger trains nor pay for salaries. Some of the authority’s employees who popped into The Guardian offices recently said the railway was facing serious financial problems, hence failing to pay employees salaries, purchase fuels, causing passenger trains delays for two days. “We want the governments of Tanzania and Zambia to help us get our salaries. The situation has become tense. If the authority cannot buy fuel for its passenger trains, how can it pay us?” they queried. The workers who attempted a go slow last week, were whisked away by the police, they said. They said the problem is not only confined to Tazara employees in Tanzania, but also in Zambia where their colleagues were experiencing same problems. Responding, Tazara management confirmed that that it is currently facing cash-flow challenges which have affected some of their operations. “The payment delays that the workers experience are a result of cash-flow problems, which we are confident of resolving. This has also affected the supply of fuels, resulting in the incidence of delays of the passenger trains as our regular fuel supplier refused to make any deliveries,” Tazara head of public relations Conrad Simuchile said. Although the management linked the problem of salary delays to bank transfers, it said salary payments for the month of April begun on April 8, 2011 and May 13, 2011; all the necessary transfers had been effected in both Tanzania and Zambia. However, he said the cash-flow challenges are a result of procedural time lags in the banks as funds have to be moved between Zambia and those in Tanzania. Recently, Tazara workers in Mbeya Region downed tools for three consecutive days to press for the payment of their salaries, prompting intervention by top officials from the Tanzania Railway Workers Union (TRAWU). TRAWU deputy chairman Mussa Kalala told the workers that they recently met with Transport minister Omary Nundu, and that all the worker’s claims were presented to him. Kalala said the minister promised to work on their problems including those involving former Tazara employees. He said they have given the minister until May 27 to respond to their grievances.


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