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First Quantum Minerals dismiss workers demanding healthcare access

11 February, 2015Six members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), have been fired on grounds of inciting and participating in an unprotected strike at a mine owned by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) after the company gave assurance that no workers would be dismissed for their role in the strike.

In early January 2015, workers downed tools at Kalumbila mine at the refusal of FQM to transport a deceased worker to a mortuary. The mine is located in a remote area and workers were angered at the lack of compassion. They have demanded that the mine provide transport to a health facility for those that are ill or injured. They also want a reduction in housing rental costs as the lowest rental charged by the company amounts to over 40 per cent of the minimum wage earned by workers at the mine.

As the government has yet to appoint a Minister of Labour, the Minster of Home Affairs was tasked with an intervention to resolve the matter and a delegation visited the mine including the Labour Commissioner and trade unionists. The company assured the Minister that no workers would be disciplined after the strike and that a report would be prepared on the issues raised by workers.

However on 29 January, 14 workers were dismissed for allegedly inciting the strike. MUZ challenged the dismissals in light of the assurance given by the company and was notified on 10 February that the company had reinstated eight of the dismissed workers.

Amongst the six workers that remain dismissed is the branch chairman of MUZ, Precious Masaba. "Masaba’s dismissal is in violation of the recognition agreement we have with FQM," says MUZ General Secretary, Joseph Chewe. "We cannot accept these dismissals as they are unfair, unprocedural and harsh."

Workers have raised legitimate demands, amongst which they seek to address concerns on access to health care and housing. Given the remote location of your operation, it is vital that these concerns are immediately addressed,

said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL in a letter to FQM.

We will be monitoring your company for violations of trade union rights and are prepared to take action at an international level should issues raised by workers at First Quantum in Zambia remain unresolved.