DEPUTY minister of Labour and Social Security Alfreda Kansembe has allayed fears that Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) will declare 4,000 workers redundant.
Ms Kansembe has assured that Government will ensure a win-win deal between the workers and the Glencore-owned mining company.
And Deputy Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Richard Musukwa has urged MCM to develop new strategies on how to sustainably continue with operations in the wake of the financial challenges it is facing.
MCM reportedly plans to declare over 4,000 workers redundant due to operational challenges arising from a slump in copper prices on the international market and an increase in electricity tariffs.
Ms Kansembe said in an interview yesterday that it is not final that MCM will lay off 4,000 workers because Government through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is still having meetings over the matter.
Ms Kansembe said Government and MCM have not reached a conclusion over the mining company’s proposal to lay off 4,000 works but will do so next week after a meeting between the two parties.
She said the meeting between Government and MCM will among other issues discuss the modus operandi (method of operation) on how the matter will be resolved.
Ms Kansembe said it is premature to come up with alarming figures of workers to be laid off at MCM because next week’s meeting will conclusively look at the interests of both parties.
Ms Kansembe said while Government appreciates the volatile global economic climate, it is also important to consider the welfare of the workers.
She said Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda already met mine owners and requested them to follow procedure before laying off workers.
Ms Kansembe said since the meeting was not concluded, it is premature to talk about intentions by MCM to lay off 4,000 workers.
She said operational challenges that some mine companies are facing are related to falling copper prices on the international market, high electricity tariffs and the depreciation of the Kwacha.
Ms Kansembe said these challenges are not unique to Zambia but also affect other countries in the region and the world over.
In a separate interview yesterday, Mr Musukwa also advised MCM to reduce its overhead costs to sustain its operations instead of laying off workers.
“Mopani Copper Mines has several foreign contractors and expatriates which they have engaged to work in various fields. They should terminate the contracts for these expatriates for them to reduce on operational costs,” Mr Musukwa said.
He assured miners across the country that Government is following the developments in the mining sector with keen interest.
Mr Musukwa said an amicable solution will soon be found to mitigate the challenges facing the mining sector.
He said government is determined to ensure that jobs are secured by finding a solution to the challenges facing the mining sector.
Mr Musukwa said Government is aware of the challenges that the mining sector is facing such the power deficit and the slump in copper prices on the international market.
And MCM public relations manager Cephas Sinyangwe said the mining firm is undertaking a study to determine the best possible way of handling the financial challenges it is facing.
Mr Sinyangwe said MCM is committed to working with other stakeholders, including Government and the unions, to find a lasting solution to the problem that the mining company is facing.
And when asked whether MCM intends to lay off over 4,000 workers, Mr Sinyangwe said the mining company is still holding consultative meetings with the unions.
“We are still engaging the union and even yesterday [Monday], that meeting was part of the engagement process,” he said.
On Monday, Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) president Nkole Chishimba said MCM had indicated to the union that it intended to lay off 4,000 workers at its Nkana operations in Kitwe and Mufulira plant.