In the UPND we are deeply concerned by the scale and extent of the recent and on going job losses we are seeing in the mining sector. Looking at the numbers coming out from Mopani Copper Mines, one is left with no option but to agree that the Zambian economy has collapsed. When employees lose jobs this not only seriously affects their immediate families, but negatively impacts the Zambian nation as a whole.
With little chance to prepare for such an eventuality in terms of the exit package and in the face of the ever-rising cost of living, miners will not only lose jobs but risk being condemned to destitution along with their dependents. The PF Government must immediately address the question of how the rights of these workers can be better protected and labour laws strengthened so that those whose employment is coming to an end have the means to make the transition.
After all while the PF has meddled with the mining taxation time and time again (we have had 4 different mining taxation regimes in as many years), the real losers have been the Zambian people and the workers. How much better would the situation be for those now facing an uncertain future if the PF’s focus had been on labour reform and workers’ rights instead?
It’s unfortunate that our colleagues in the PF have also been busy looking the other way with their by-elections, heavy international travel schedule and creation of extra ministries and jobs for politicians, instead of looking at the plight of workers such as our miners who toil daily to grow our economy and industries. The fruits of this growth are then largely wasted by Government with little material benefit to the workers.
The plight of our miners raises all sorts of concerns and questions concerning the state of employment under the PF. Let the PF explain how they are creating 500,000 jobs when so many are now being lost? Are all these jobs to be created purely for ministers and politicians? Let the PF give us monthly updates on which jobs have been created and where. We do not want to hear more empty promises so let them update us on those that have already been created and not merely what they plan to create. Also, what kind of jobs are these and how are the rights of these workers protected? Or are these yet more temporary or casual positions?
The PF Government has demonstrated to us that its confrontational approach to such matters has only aggregated the situation. This is a clear indication that it lacks proper leadership to drive the economy and spur the much needed investor confidence and trust of workers.
We in the UPND therefore urge our PF colleagues to be level headed. Where it is necessary to consult others let it be so without being confrontational. It’s a different approach to dare people with solutions as opposed to inviting them to have a fruitful discussion.