MOPANI Copper Mines will this month lay off 1,743 and another 3,588 miners next month.
Meanwhile, Ng’andu Magande says the Patriotic Front government should explain why miners are still losing jobs and the kwacha has kept losing strength against major currencies even after holding nationwide prayers for the ailing economy.
According to the retrenchment schedule obtained yesterday, the employee reduction exercise began in August this year and targets to lay off 8,760 workers, including expatriates and contractors.
And Mopani sources said the mine had no option but to lay off some miners because of losses.
“We were making losses in the production of copper. We were producing US$7,000 per tonne and selling it for about US$5,000, and that there is a US$2,000 loss for each tonne. So that reduction of workers has been ongoing for the past two years and it has been worsened by the power deficit. Glencore, the owners of this company kept on telling government that we need to scale down operations because of the loss,” the source explained.
“So we informed the unions some time back to say, ‘Let’s put in measures to mitigate these issues’, but despite those measures being put in place, there are still some serious challenges. So we had no option but to downsize. Management gave a proposal to say, ‘You lobby to government to pay the company the 300 million dollars which it owes in Vat refund, so that maybe we can reduce the losses but government didn’t do that. So after those challenges, we had no option but to downsize.”
The sources said the labour commissioner and the workers’ unions have already been informed of the decision.
“That is how we informed the labour commissioner, according to our labour laws, that you put it in written and you give the labour commissioner 60 days notice and that was done on September 23. And in the last 30 days, we informed the unions per requirements in the law. It will elapse on the 21st and so the retrenchments will continue as planned. We can only start retrenching after the 21st of November, that is the 22nd,” the sources said.
“But before that time comes, we came up with the voluntary separation scheme where we gave an option to employees who would want to find other jobs and those who wanted to leave applied for voluntary separation. Then there are employees who are between 50 and 65 years old, so according to the company policy, you can go on early retirement if you are willing. So they were given an option and about 1000 of them were written to. So that’s the process that’s ongoing now.”
The sources further revealed that Mopani Copper Mine was restructuring its departments.
“We are looking at departments; if the work operation can be scaled down to the least feasible point. If there were 600 people before, we will leave maybe 200 or 300. We have already involved experts and they are looking at department specifications, how relevant the department is and the cost and so on,” the sources said.
The source said President Edgar Lungu’s pronouncement that no more miners would lose their jobs was merely political because there had been no policy shift.
“So those pronouncements by the President to say there will be no more job losses was just political. There has been no policy shift. Come January 1, there is already a new order in charge which has a very lean manpower and that’s the budget that has been approved for 2016 by the shareholders; Glencore. At this point, nothing can be done to save those jobs. If there was anything, those issues would have been agreed on way back about two or three months ago when the shareholders came and met [President] Edgar Lungu and his team, that was the time that was there to resolve issues,” said the sources.
“These 4,300 are permanent Mopani employees but remember that Mopani also has about 8,000 to 10,000 contract [workers]. So there will also be indirect job losses and when you sum it up, it is close to 8000-10,000 people losing their jobs.”
But Magande, the former finance minister, has wondered why the crises facing Zambia have kept escalating after the National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
“You know, I have stopped commenting now because two weeks ago, they went to pray and we are now waiting for solutions. Why are you coming to me and leaving the people who went to pray? They should now tell us why the kwacha is nearly K15 to a dollar when they went to pray. When is it coming down? Has their god forsaken them?” he asked.
“They said things would be okay. Didn’t you hear about the rain which fell two days after the prayers on the Copperbelt when they said this is one of the answers? So ask them to tell us why the mines are still closing and people are losing jobs when they went to pray.”
Magande said the PF did not realize the repercussions of the job losses for the families of the miners.
“It is very sad for those miners and these people don’t realise the repercussions of these losses for the families involved. They have rent obligations and other things that they are supposed to pay for. That’s why one would think that instead of coming to companies like yours to force them to close, they should ensure that The Post is still keeping Mukosha and when she gets her salary, she will pay taxes. Now they are even attacking those who are still operating, what is that? So I am just waiting for them to tell us how God is answering their prayers,” said Magande.