Shamenda Urges Miners Not to Panic

Labour and social security minister Fackson Shamenda has appealed to miners and Zambians not to panic over reports that Konkola Copper Mines intends to lay off 2,000 miners. 
And the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) says KCM's plans must be immediately halted by the government and all stakeholders. 
Meanwhile, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) has accused the mining giant of not being sincere to the government about its operations and the plans to retrench employees. 

Shamenda yesterday said the law was very clear on procedures to be followed before any company could lay off workers and those procedures had not been exhausted in the case of KCM. 

KCM informed the government about its intentions to retrench 2,000 workers. 
"It is a requirement that employers first engage the unions on their intentions and thereafter engage the government. So far, all these processes had not been exhausted by KCM," he said. 

Shamenda said to this end, no miner would be retrenched at KCM. 
He said the government had stepped in and was engaging KCM management and the unions to look at the reasons behind the proposal to retrench miners. 
Shamenda assured the miners and the nation that it would take care of their interests and that no Zambian would unnecessarily lose employment. 
He stressed that issuing statements on a matter, which had not been exhaustively concluded, would not serve anyone. 
Shamenda has since banned issuance of any statements on the intention by KCM to lay off miners saying mining was a serious industry requiring only his deputy ministers and himself to be informing the nation. 

Labour matters, he said, were very delicate and Zambians needed to be careful in the manner in which they issued statements hinging on people's livelihood. MUZ president Nkole Chishimba said the negotiations with KCM should not be aimed at mitigation of the idea of retrenchment but at halting the entire process of retrenchment. 
Chishimba said the plans by KCM had a huge negative impact on the country as over 20,000 people would be subjected to misery if mining giant was allowed to trim its workforce. 
"Remember that these people have families and one miner looks up to about 10 people plus the extended family. KCM will set a bad precedent if it will be allowed to do that. We urge our members and every employee at KCM to remain calm and work extra hard to boost production so that we leave management with no excuse. On the other hand, we have engaged the government, KCM and all stakeholders so that we resolve this issue amicably," said Chishimba. 
And SARW campaign officer for Zambia, Edward Lange, said the retrenchment plans by KCM were retrogressive and contrary to the ideals of the PF government that was working hard to create jobs. 

Lange said KCM must rethink its decision and sit down with the government to find a lasting solution to the problem. 
He said the government must protect the people by not allowing KCM to retrench the workers. 
In a letter dated May 23, 2013, addressed to MUZ, the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) and United Mineworkers Union of Zambia (UMUZ), KCM vice-president human capital David Kaunda stated that the company would lay off 2,000 permanent jobs as it had been impacted by a number of economic and legacy issues that have made it imperative to review its operations for its continued viability. 
And a member of the PF central committee in charge of labour Davies Mwila said the government would prefer that KCM leaves the mines rather than allowing them to retrench over 2,000 employees. 

Mwila, who is also defence deputy minister, said the PF as a party in power had been watching closely the operations of KCM and its manoeuvres to deprive Zambians that had been working very hard over the years to stabilise the operations of the mining sector which was the backbone of the country's economy. 
Mwila, who is also a former general treasurer of MUZ, said KCM had not been fair to the Zambian people in its operations despite the mining company enjoying good prices of copper and other metals at the international market. 

"In fact, KCM's departure is long overdue. So, if they want to leave, let them go and God will give us other progressive investors ready to work with the government rather than allowing them to sack our people. Look, 20 years ago before KCM inherited those mines, the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) employed over 20,000 people when the price of copper was 2,000 dollars per tonne and this labour force was maintained," he said. "When KCM took over, the number of permanent jobs drastically reduced and it's now below 10,000 despite the copper price at the London Metal Exchange being around 7,000 per tonne. Today they are telling us that they have to reduce the labour force further, no! We will not allow them to embarrass the PF government. Those reasons they have advanced to lay off are not genuine." 
Mwila said that, in fact, the government was not happy with the operations of KCM looking at the dilapidated roads and public infrastructure in Chingola and Chililabombwe which are not fit for towns hosting of the world's largest mines . 

Mwila said the owners of KCM had built a masterpiece university in India using the mineral resources extracted from Zambia but had failed to do the same to satisfy the custodians of the minerals who were the citizens of Zambia. 

He said companies like Mopani Copper Mines, Lumwana, Kansanshi and many others were working hard to supplement government's efforts to create employment.  
"Two years ago, KCM started outsourcing labour force as a way of indirectly sacking our people. They brought in U and M, they later cancelled the contract and over 700 people were left jobless. MMS is another company that was contracted to work underground, the company is no more as we speak and about 600 miners were retrenched. Another company, Black Smith, was contracted at the concentrator and over 400 people are on the streets and the list of contractors whose contracts have not been renewed at KCM is huge and these people (KCM) expect us to keep quiet? No we will not allow them," said Mwila. 
On Wednesday, Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebiel urged Zambia to put in place measures that would enable it get better contracts to reap more benefits from the mining sector. 

"It is very important to find a way to use the mining sector for financing your own budget than you can do at the moment and we could give a helpful hand to have better contracts in the future for more income, revenues for your country to invest in your country," said Niebiel.