Over 1 000 National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers are set to be retrenched after the completion of a forensic audit of the company, the board chairman Mr Larry Mavima said yesterday.
The ailing parastatal, which is saddled with a $144 million debt with the workers owed over $68 million in outstanding salaries, is set to embark on a forensic audit of its estates, assets and human resources as part of the implementation of its turnaround strategy.
In an interview, Mr Mavima said the parastatal would soon retrench non-essential staff to ease the burden on the ailing entity.
“It’s quite evident that NRZ is overstaffed in relation to the business we are generating and we don’t see an avalanche of business coming to NRZ in the foreseeable future,” he said.
“Therefore, after the forensic audit, we are looking at retrenching between 1 000 and 1 400 people.
“The retrenchment exercise will be done professionally in all the departments of NRZ.
“This is being necessitated by the desire to save the company from continued trouble.
“The industrial action that we experienced recently was a blessing in disguise as it made us realise that we can do with a very lean structure.
Mr Mavima said the impending retrenchment would also assist in cost cutting and positioning the company for growth.
“The retrenchment is meant to save the company from further collapse and thus the exercise isn’t a witch hunt.
“We are looking at cutting costs, so the retrenchment will affect everyone across all the departments, including managers at all levels,” he explained.
NRZ employs about 5 700 people.
In April, over 4 000 NRZ workers embarked on an industrial action to press their employer to pay them their outstanding salaries dating back more than 15 months.
As a result of the strike that lasted more than a month, the parastatal lost about $250 000 a day.
In 2015, the volume of goods NRZ moved tumbled to 2,8 million tonnes from 3,5 million the previous year on the back of increased challenges besetting the parastatal.
The railway company is grappling with challenges such as ageing infrastructure and equipment which has surpassed its designed lifespan, vandalism, huge debt and lack of cheap lines of credit for retooling.
The falling commodity prices on the global market have also affected the company’s key customers, notably those in the coal and chrome industries, resulting in a sharp drop in the business.