- Tanzania's Labour Court has ordered employees of National Microfinance Bank Ltd, country's biggest lender, to go back to work, ending a two day strike over benefits.
Court ruled that almost 2,000 striking workers should report for work not later than 8am today, pending determination of a matter brought by their employer.
Employees who walked off the job on 22 September are demanding government to give them a lump-sum payment of benefits dating back to sale of bank to private investors in 2005 when government sold 49 percent stake of the bank.
Principal Judge Mwanahaki Mwipopo said NMB employees who would not have returned to work by 8am today should be disciplined for disobeying the court.
Ruling effectively shortened the spirited push by workers to force government and NMB management to sign a contentious memorandum of understanding (MOU), which would have significantly raised their employment benefits and bonuses.
He said workers went on strike before their 48-hour notice had expired, and added that government's alleged reluctance to sign could not be cited as a ground for strike as employees were answerable to bank's management.
Judge Mwipopo also said contempt of court case filed by NMB against Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO) officials would be heard on Friday. NMB management wants officials to be punished for calling strike while a case on dispute was still pending in court.
TUICO, Secretary General, Boniface Nkakatisi urged all workers to go back to work. "Since we can't counter court, go back to work and leave us with the mandate to counter it from within," he said.
Earlier, Mr Nkakatisi, deputy secretary-general for banking sector Alquin Senga and Tuico NMB branch chairman Joseph Masana walked out of the courtroom depressed, but appealed to workers to resume duties as directed.
While Mr Nkakatisi said they had no choice but to obey the court, Mr Masana said it would be a criminal offence if they insisted on continuing with strike after ruling.
According to media reports, strike has angered clients in the main cities of Dar es Salaam and other major and small towns of the country. Many ATMs belonging to the bank were not working and few that were operational were overwhelmed.
National Microfinance plans to start trading its stock on Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange at the end of next month.
Government sold a 21 percent stake in the bank, reducing its share to 30 percent, to raise 63 billion Tanzanian shillings (US$54 million). Five percent of that is reserved for bank staff.
The share offer closed earlier this month and was about three times oversubscribed.
Rabobank of Netherlands owns 34.9 percent while Tanzania's Exim Bank, Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture and National Investment own 14.1 percent.
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