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Zambian union rejects precarious work in copper mines

4 October, 2017IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ), is opposing plans by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), to outsource operations, and transfer over 1,000 workers to contractors. 

MUZ, which has organized over 4500 workers at KCM, is against moving decent permanent jobs to precarious working conditions, which will lead to poverty among mineworkers and mining communities in Chingola, Chililabombwe, Kitwe and Nampundwe.

KCM is a subsidiary of the multinational company, Vedanta, which is involved in mining and oil and gas in Australia, India, Ireland, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

In a meeting with Vedanta Resources, Zambian president Edgar Lungu, said the government was also opposed to the KCM plans. Further, mines minister, Christopher Yaluma, issued a directive to the company to stop the plans and operate according to their 2004 mining licence. The union doubts whether the government will enforce the directive as KCM is also ignoring the Employment Amendment Act (2015) which makes it unlawful to casualize permanent work.

Instead of sacrificing jobs, the union is asking for an improvement in operations by recapitalizing the mines, buying new equipment, and giving more benefits to the workers as motivation. It believes KCM should increase production and extend the life of the mines to 50 years.

Nkole Chishimba, President of MUZ and the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions, said: 

Vedanta has failed mine workers, mining communities, and local contractors and suppliers. The planned outsourcing programme is unacceptable and ill-timed. Although the company claims to have invested over US$4 billion over the 11-year-period, it failed to increase production of copper to 400,000 tonnes due to poor management in procurement of equipment, materials and spares. KCM must surrender the mine back to the government so that a viable investor can take over rather than send thousands of workers into poverty through casualization.

Kenny Mogane, IndustriALL regional officer for Sub Saharan Africa said:

We support MUZ’s unwavering stance on saving jobs in the mining sector in Zambia. In our campaigns for more decent and permanent jobs, we must always protect existing jobs against companies that think job security can be removed at will. We will continue to join our affiliates in the fight against precarious work.