BULAWAYO – Labour Court judge Justice Evangelista Kabasa has struck off the roll the matter between the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and its workers, who downed tools last month over non-payment of their salaries.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira last month ordered the disgruntled NRZ employees to return to work pending the finalisation of the matter.
The minister issued the order following last month’s application at the Labour Court by the NRZ management for a show cause order in terms of the Labour Act.
The cash-strapped parastatal took 942 of its workers to court for refusing to return to work.
Justice Evangelista Kabasa ruled that there was a technical irregularity which required NRZ to attend to before she could hear the matter.
“In arriving at an appropriate order, I am cognisant of the fact that I have not dealt with the merits of the matter. The matter at this stage is being disposed of on the basis of an irregularity which can be corrected,” she said.
“It is for this reason that I have decided to strike the matter off the roll with no order as to the costs,” ruled Justice Kabasa.
In its application filed last week through lawyers Coghlan and Welsh legal practitioners, the NRZ management said the strike by its workers was illegal, arguing that they failed to give the mandatory 14 days’ notice to their employer of their intention to engage in collective job action.
NRZ, who cited 942 workers and their representative unions as the respondent, describe the job action as illegal.
But the workers, through their lawyer Munyaradzi Gwisai, said the move was a response to an immediate occupational hazard which was a threat to their safety, health and human dignity.
“The employer’s actions have reduced workers to beggars and destitutes and resulted in hunger, mental stress and making it impossible for them to physically and mentally carry on their job without risking their own limbs and lives. In the last three weeks alone, there have been at least four train derailments, exposing the grave risk and the danger that workers face,” Gwisai argued.
Over 4 000 NRZ workers, who are owed 15 months’ outstanding salaries each, went on a strike since March 29 after rejecting an offer by management to pay them between $175 and $350.
The workers are being owed more than $80 million in unpaid salaries.