8 August, 2012A Chinese supervisor at Collum Coal Mine in Zambia was killed and another seriously wounded after being hit by a trolley pushed at them by workers on 4 August 2012. Workers were angry that the mining company had failed to raise wages in line with new minimums set by the Zambian government.
General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), Joseph Chewe said that whilst poor wages had been a problem at the mine, the union had been negotiating with management in the week before to improve conditions of service and salaries and added that it was unfortunate that workers had lost patience.
Chinese investment in Zambia amounts to more than US$ 1 billion but industrial relations in some Chinese companies have been problematic especially in the mining sector. A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in November 2011 details persistent abuse in Chinese run mines. “China’s significant investment in Zambia’s copper mining industry can benefit both Chinese and Zambians,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But the miners in Chinese-run companies have been subject to abusive health, safety, and labour conditions and long time government indifference.”
Labour relations at Collum mine have been fractious in the past. In 2010, two Chinese supervisors shot and wounded 13 miners in another pay dispute.
Chewe spoke against the recent violence by workers at Collum saying, "We condemn acts of violence as all problems have to be addressed through dialogue on the table. The rule of law should prevail in this matter.” The police have arrested 12 workers and police presence will remain at the mine for some time.