21 Jan 2011
Police in full riot gear had a tough time on January 18 trying to maintain peace and order at the Chinese run Non Ferrous Metals Corporation Chambishi mine in northern Zambia when more than 200 workers protested over meager wages, unilateral retrenchments by management and the change of company name, raising concern of an impending closure of operations.
Sources at the mine said the miners were irked by management’s decision to change the name of the company to JCHX and while at the same time it unilaterally decided to transfer some of the people that used to work for NFCA mining department to the new company in unexplained circumstances and others laid off.
The workers lamented that some of them were being paid peanuts amounting to ZMK 500, 000 (about USD 106) in terminal benefits and that some have already been forced to receive it and had left employment.
The workers were further irate by management’s refusal to pay them full terminal benefits before transferring them to a new company that has come on board.
According to sources, the workers were surprised that management had brought in the new company, JCHX and decided to transfer some of those that used to work for NFCA mining department to the new company unilaterally.
The sources said that “The mine owners actually breached the contracts signed with the workers and that is why all the workers want to be paid their benefits in full before decided whether to start new contracts with the new company or retire because they feel cheated despite many of them working for more than three or four years.”
Accordingly, management opted to pay about ZMK 3,000,000 (USD 638) in terminal benefits to workers that have served the company for more than three years, a decision which the workers described as a mockery, given the inflationary levels in the country.
The workers were further disappointed that management did not give them due notice about the introduction of the new company, JCHX and additionally, many have not signed new contracts despite being transferred to the new company, which they fear were indications of closure.
The miners claimed that while their Chinese bosses were able to go on leave for as long as they wanted, it was not easy for them to go on leave and in any case, those who got sick for a number of days were considered absent and fired without benefits.
They claimed the Chinese employers had tricked them into believing that CNFA was in Zambia to last and that given the situation, they risked being unemployed.
The sources said was despite several protests to government and the miners’ unions, National Union of Miners and Allied Workers and the Mine workers Union of Zambia over the alleged impending closure of the money and subsequent retrenchments nothing has been done.
Management at NFCA was against allowing workers to be represented by a union, the sources added.
The situation has, however, been compounded by management restricting them from accessing essential facilities including health because they were now under JCHX, a name they did not understand.
Mine workers Union of Zambia President Rayford Mbulu said the largest mine workers movement, with about 200 members at the affected mine was not aware of the disturbances and promised to investigate. There was no immediate comment from NFCA Chambishi mine spokesperson Godwin Mwakenje or National Union of Miners and Allied Workers Goodwell Kaluba by press time.