LABOUR Minister Fackson Shamenda has given Dangote Industries Zambia Limited in Masaiti, two weeks in which to rectify the imbalance in job ratios between Zambians and Chinese.
Mr Shamenda said when he went to the Dangote cement plant yesterday that after his findings during his visit on Saturday last week, the company had two weeks to rectify the problem of the low number of Zambians employed at the site by the Chinese contractor constructing the plant, Sinoma Engineering Company.
Dangote should also address the lack of safety measures not being observed by Sinoma.
Dangote Industries Zambia Limited is a US$450 million cement manufacturing plant under construction and is scheduled to commence operations by the end of the year, with production capacity of 1.5 million tonnes of cement annually.
Dangote Group, the mother company based in Nigeria, broke ground for the Zambian plant in 2011 and the construction of the plant started in 2012.
On Saturday, Mr Shamenda toured the plant where he found the labourers working under Sinoma, working without appropriate safety shoes and did not observe many other safety measures.
The workers complained to Mr Shamenda that they were unfairly treated as compared to their Chinese counterparts and that their wages were low.
Out of 1, 100 workers under Sinoma, 720 were expatriates.
Managers from Dangote and Sinoma failed to meet the minister on Saturday.
Yesterday when Mr Shamenda, labour officials, officials from Workers Compensation Fund Control Board and members of the Press went to the Dangote site, workers were found on a queue to be issued with appropriate shoes for the plant.
“This is very insincere of you. I am disappointed with Dangote because I came here on Saturday and the workers did not have proper shoes. Monday was a holiday and coincidentally you have proper shoes to give them today,” Mr Shamenda said in the meeting with managers of Dangote and Sinoma.
He said the responsibility lay with Dangote to ensure that their contractors adhered to appropriate Zambian labour laws and standard safety measures.
It was inappropriate, Mr Shamenda said, to have so many expatriates when many Zambians were skilled.
The contractor also needed to review the salaries it offered because he had a report that some expatriates were getting as low as $200 a month, which meant that Government did not gain anything in taxes.
Dangote Zambia chief general manager Vivek Heblikar said Dangote was a good employer but that he did not interfere with the labour matters of the contractor.
Mr Heblikar said after Mr Shamenda’s visit on Saturday, steps were taken to address the issues that were raised, saying that in some areas, however, there were some deficiencies that the two companies were working on.
He said Zambian workers lost out on some of the jobs because they were not skilled enough and that his duty was to ensure that the contractor delivered a quality plant before the end of the year.
Mr Shamenda, who was angered by the last statement, said Zambians were skilled enough to do the jobs that the Chinese were doing and Dangote should not just concentrate on the technical issues but on the labour issues as well because it was their reputation on the line.
He said Dangote should employ a Zambian human resource director who should not only oversee the labour matters at Dangote but also ensure that the contractors under the company were doing the right thing.
If remedial measures were not taken after two weeks, stern action would be taken against Dangote in accordance with the law.
Mr Shamenda also nullified the job interviews that the company undertook recently because they were done under the instructions of a Nigerian human resource official.
A Dangote human resources representative from Nigeria, Bala Zangu, said Dangote was proud to be operating in Zambia and that the company would use the employing techniques used in Nigeria that promoted skills transfer from expatriates to locals.
Times of Zambia