19 June 2013

Zambia: FQM to Lay Off 500 Workers

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
The country’'s mining sector plays a significant role in the country’s economy(File Photo).

FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) will lay off 500 workers at Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila in Solwezi which is under construction.

But Labour Deputy Minister Ronald Chitotela said Government would not allow the laying off of workers whenever a company was faced with challenges as there were other options to explore.

FQM's decision to lay off the workers follows Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA)'s action to place a protection order which halted the construction of the Chisola dam last month.

According to FQM spokesperson John Gladston, the company had been forced to lay off the workers because it could not sustain the current high workforce, while waiting for ZEMA to lift a protection order that had prevented further construction of the Chisola dam.

The mining firm was putting up the dam in the North-Western Province to store sufficient water for use in various processes at the giant mine project.

"The company has been left with no option as employees have not been able to work on the dam while the ZEMA protection order is in force," Mr Gladston said.

He said the company would soon be serving termination notices to the affected workers "in the coming days."

Mr Gladston said, however, that FQM was optimistic that dialogue with Government would bring about a speedy resolution to safeguard jobs at the mine.

But Mr Chitotela appealed to the affected workers to remain calm as a team of experts from his ministry would meet with FQM management to avert job losses.

In a separate interview, he said Government would not allow mine owners to retrench workers, whenever they faced a problem.

"We are a caring Government and this is what the workers need to understand. We will not let this be the end decision. We are sending a team of experts to FQM to discuss the matter and find a solution. Companies should not look at workers as a cost but as a means of production," he said.

Recently, Government opposed Konkola Copper Mines which targeted to declare about 2000 employees redundant.

In announcing the decision, KCM had cited a slump in copper prices and high cost of production caused by rising fuel prices. The decision has since been reversed.

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