(Darious Kapembwa and Marilyn Rose)
KONKOLA Copper Mines has gone ahead to outsource its operations and outplace workers to contractors, defying opposition from unions because according to the mining giant, President Edgar Lungu and Vedanta Resources chairman Anil Agawal discussed the matter.
Vedanta owned KCM has gone ahead to outsource its major operations and has since transferred its workers to the same contractors.
When the intentions were made known to workers, the three unions in the mining sector vehemently opposed the move with mines minister Christopher Yaluma then urging KCM not go ahead with the exercise.
But the mining company had defied all opposition and the outsourcing is in full swing, which threatens to further cripple the towns of Chingola and Chililabombwe going by past experience when KCM outsourced some of its operations to foreign companies such as U&M, Moolmans, FL Smidth, MMS, among other foreign companies KCM in 2010.
The alleged ‘collusion’ between the Zambian Head of State and the wealthy Argawal came to light at a joint media briefing by the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW), MUZ and United Mineworkers Union at Katilungu House today.
“The unions would like to respond to the plans by Konkola Copper Mines PLC to outsource its operations and outplace its employees to contractors as announced in a management brief dated 9th August 2017,”
MUZ president Nkole Chishimba said.
“The above briefing indicated that these plans were discussed between the Vedanta chairman and the Republican President.”
He said the unions had rejected KCM’s plans and advised that the way forward in revamping KCM to achieve the targeted 400,000 tonnes of copper per annum and extend the mines’ lifespan by 50 years, was to recapitalise the mine, buy new equipment, spares and materials and motivate the current workforce.
Chishimba, who is also Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president, said during meetings with the government, KCM and the unions, the mine’s plans were rejected.
He said government directed KCM to halt its plans and stink to the blue print of the mining licence which they bought in 2004.
Chishimba added that there was another meeting between unions and President Lungu at the Kitwe Civic Centre on August 31, where the Head of State emphatically said he did not support the planned outsourcing by KCM.
“Today, the union is dismayed to learn that KCM has gone ahead with their plans to outsource operations and outplace over 1,000 employees to contractors. The stubbornness by KCM to proceed to second workers is contrary to the Zambian government directive by mines minister honourable Christopher Yaluma and a total disregard to the union position and their mining business blue print,” Chishimba said.
He said the action by KCM was a form of sugar-coating of casualisation and informalisation of work, which was against the amended employment Act SI number 15 of 2015, which bans casualisation of labour.
“Vedanta Resources has failed to revamp production since it took over operations at KCM in 2004 and the honourable thing for them to do is to surrender the mine back to government so that a viable investor can take over rather than send thousands of workers in Chingola, Chililabombwe, Kitwe and Nampundwe into abject poverty and squalor through casualisation,”
“The unions see these plans by KCM as a way to reduce the number of direct employees in tandem with their vision earlier announced by then CEO to reduce workers to 500 and secondly, the move is a way to encourage precarious conditions of service…the planned outsourcing is unacceptable and ill-timed granted that the company claims to have invested US$4 billion over the 11 year period, in which the company has failed to ramp up production to 400,000 tonnes due to perennial management failure to do its part in procurement of equipment, materials and spares.”
He called on government to ‘wake up and play its part’ because Vedanta had failed local contractors, suppliers, mining communities and mine workers.
Chishinba said the unions had plainly stated reasons for rejecting KCM’s plans to both the mine and the government adding that it was now up to government to give a ‘genuine directive’ to halt the process “because we do not know why the company has proceeded unilaterally and with impunity on this matter”.
He said there was a political solution needed to solve the KCM problem, emphasising that there was need for genuine directives.
Chishimba wondered why KCM had proceeded with the programme if Yaluma and Lungu’s directives were genuine.
“Mr President you have been clearly mentioned to have discussed this with Vedanta chairman. We need you to come out clearly in public and stop what is happening at KCM,” said Chishimba.