Monday, December 30, 2013

KCM annoys govt
By Kombe Chimpinde-Mataka
Fri 08 Nov. 2013, 14:01 CAT

KONKOLA Copper Mines has annoyed the government over the response its chief executive officer Kishor Kumar gave in reference to President Michael Sata's warning against firing workers from the mine.

Speaking to journalists shortly after a meeting organised by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in Lusaka, labour minister Fackson Shamenda disclosed yesterday that Kumar had dismissed President Sata's warning that the government would revoke the company's licence if it fired even one worker, as mere rhetoric.

He disclosed that he had called for a meeting with KCM after the presidential order but was disappointed with Kumar's response.

"I have just heard about it today (laying off 76 workers from KCM). As you are aware the President directed me to convey government's position on the matter which I did but I am very disappointed and I would like to say I am very disappointed with Kumar for describing President Sata's threats as rhetoric in one of the meetings. Surely how can he describe the President's threat as rhetoric?" asked Shamenda.

Attempts to talk to Kumar to clarify Shamenda's statement failed as his line went unanswered.

Further attempts were made to contact KCM spokesperson Joy Sata who was asked to verify Kumar's statement but she declined to comment and said she wanted to read the story first.

Shamenda said he was disappointed by KCM's decision to lay off over 70 workers against President Sata's advice.

"I have summoned the (mine workers') unions and KCM management at a meeting at 18:00 hours to discuss the way forward. We (government) are not going to tolerate any form of blackmail," Shamenda said.

And Shamenda said the directive for him to convene a meeting with KCM and unions last evening was sanctioned by President Sata after his (Shamenda) request.

"As at last night around 20:00 hours we were still having meetings where these people (KCM) had denied allegations that they had gone ahead with their decision to lay off some workers, so I am disappointed to hear that some workers have been laid off. This is the arrogance that we are talking about," Shamenda said.

"We know KCM is in serious financial needs and we are not going to allow them to leave a shell."

On Monday, shortly before he addressed a Cabinet meeting at State House, President Sata threatened to revoke KCM's licence if it laid off even one worker following the firm's announcement to relieve 1,529 workers with the view of moving on to further mechanising its operations.

KCM had by September issued letters of termination of employment to selected workers.

Some of the affected workers claimed that the letters had been backdated.

And former vice-president and Chingola member of parliament Enoch Kavindele said KCM had plans to leave and was looking for excuses for its exit.

"The situation in Chingola where I have been member of parliament for 18 years is bad. The future is bleak. It's like they (KCM) have a lot of problems and are just looking for excuses for someone to say, 'just go'," said Kavindele.

ADD president Charles Milupi said Zambia must cease to be surrogates of the mining firms.

Milupi said it was unfortunate Zambians had chosen to be surrogates of the mining sector.

"This is why we have been continuously telling this government if we had gotten enough dividends at the time when copper prices were very high to use in diversifying this economy, creating other employment opportunities such that if the mining companies lay off people, there would be other opportunities for them but because we have chosen to be surrogates to the mining sector, we have become desperate to maintain employment in the mining companies," Milupi said.

"KCM is saying they need to mechanise, they are saying that productivity, one worker producing an average of 80 tonnes of copper per annum, when the world average is 100 tonnes. If you look at these figures, it shows one is running a very big operation. My argument is that they cannot just say, 'we'll lay off labour'. They are other ways that they could have used such as increasing productivity. They have to make us understand why the production is so high."

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