Friday, November 28, 2008

(TIMES) ‘Mines’ job-cuts inevitable’

COMMENT - How ironic that the same people who received billions of US dollars in tax exemptions because taxes would be 'bad for business' now want us to accept massive joblosses, because it's 'just business'. I guess everything that is good for Lumwana's shareholders is good for Zambia too, right? It is time for a government that tells the foreign mining companies to take a hike. They take and take and take, and when it is time for the smallest sacrifice, they threaten to leave or have their cronies in the media and society cry all kinds of foul. Either we have a government that benefits the people of the country, or a government of stooges for the mine corporations. Rupiah Banda has a choice to make.

‘Mines’ job-cuts inevitable’
By Times Reporter

THE Chamber of Mines in Zambia (CMZ) has defended retrenchments in the mining industry saying the exercise is inevitable and not intended to pressure the Government to revise the tax regime.

But other stakeholders yesterday insisted that the retrenchments were unjustified, as most mines would remain profitable despite the falling copper prices and global economic meltdown.

CMZ president Nathan Chishimba said in Lusaka yesterday that the retrenchments that the mining companies had embarked on were also being done in other sectors of the economy but received little publicity.

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Wednesday accused the mining companies of using the copper prices and global financial crisis to hit at the Government over the new mining tax regime introduced this year.

Mr Chishimba said the problems brought about by the falling copper prices and global economic recession were real and the mining companies were ready to dialogue with the Government to come up with the best way of addressing the situation.

“The question of arm-twisting the Government does not arise because what the mining companies are going through in Zambia is happening elsewhere in the world and the best we can do as a country is sit down and discuss,” he said.

Mr Chishimba said the mining companies did not take pleasure in seeing Zambians being left jobless and it was for that reason that the investors were ready to meet with Government officials to resolve the problems.

He further called for calm among Zambians as the mining companies, the Government and other players in the industry attempted to find a solution to the problems.

On Wednesday, President Rupiah Banda expressed concern over the retrenchment of workers by mining companies and called for dialogue to look at other ways of reducing costs without resorting to job cuts.

Mr Banda said the Government would always encourage negotiations in resolving problems facing mining and other investors as a result of falling copper prices and the global financial crisis.

Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) and the United Liberal Party (ULP) separately said the mines previously made huge profits to sustain today’s operations.

TIZ president, Rueben Lifuka said the mining firms had for years made huge profits with little benefit to ordinary citizens and it would therefore be socially irresponsible for them to retrench workers at this critical stage.

He said that most of the workers had been loyal to their employers who should this time around shown signs of being socially responsible by ensuring that the workers remained in employment.

“When the going was good they did not want to share the benefits but as TIZ our advice to them is that they should be socially responsible to the workers who have stayed with them in good and bad times,” Mr Lifuka said.

Saccord executive director, Lee Habasonda said the Government should quickly initiate dialogue with the mining companies in order to avert the retrenchment exercise.

Mr Habasonda emphasised that investors should be socially responsible and it was in difficult times like this that they should be interested in the well-being of the Zambians.

“They are now showing us that their interest is to make money and leave. What we expect from these investors is for them to keep the workers in employment even in difficult times,” Mr Habasonda said.

ULP president, Sakwiba Sikota said that most mining firms would be profitable because of the money they made when copper prices were at the peak and the most prudent thing for them to do was to absorb some losses that might arise as a result of the falling prices.

“The mines have to come up with figures justifying the need to retrench because at the current copper prices, they can still not make a loss. The prices are still high and so they need to explain why there is this need for retrenchments,” Mr Sikota said.

He further said that the firms could not give the recently introduced windfall tax as the excuse for retrenchments because such tax only comes into effect when a certain target has been met.

The opposition leader advised the Government not to take kindly the decisions by mining firms to retrench workers but demand a thorough explanation.

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