Editorial

MOPANI GYMNASTICS

THERE is nothing as unnerving as uncertainty for a worker as not being sure of one’s job.
Job security enables one to work with a clear mind, conscientiously and ensures high productivity.
This, we believe is what the National Union for Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) wants for its members.
And the NUMAW president, Mr James Chansa is on firm ground to demand that its members employed by Mopani Copper Mines at the Kitwe and Mufulira mines must enjoy job security.
Although Glencore International, the majority shareholder in Mopani has rescinded its decision to place the two mining units under care and maintenance, the move is temporary.
Mopani says it will review its position after 90 days on whether to place the mines under care and maintenance.
This is what has unsettled the mining workers’ union as it puts the jobs of over 11, 000 workers on the chopping board.
It is not a laughing matter because such a move would bring untold suffering among the affected workers, extending to their extended families.
Mr Chansa is right to demand that miners must feel secure that their jobs are safe and that Government must step in and ensure that jobs are safeguarded.
Mr Chansa said Government must stand firm and ensure that jobs in the mining sector were protected, as job security was key to high productivity.
The “cat and mice” game that appears to be the norm between the government and the mining firm is not helping anyone.
This is why NUMAW feels Glencore International is arm-twisting the government, threatening job losses so as to get its way.
We agree with Mr Chansa that Government and Mopani must make decisions that would guarantee job security.
“The reason we demonstrated was because we want jobs at Mopani to be secured. Everyone who has lost a job is a big injury to all of us,” Mr Mwansa said.
We feel the government has more than gone out of its way to accommodate demands from the mining firms.
Mining firms have been arm-twisting the government in recent years and the trend does not seem to be ending.
We remember the protracted row over Sales Tax and VAT.
During this current impasse, Government has again granted some concessions demanded by the Zambia Chamber of Mining that among other things waives duty on imports of copper concentrates.
Yes, Glencore initially said it was reviewing its business in a bid to slash spending as lower copper prices and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic take their toll
The comprehensive review it explained aimed at minimising cash outflow and that any non-essential projects would be suspended.
“The rapid decline in the price of copper due to the impact of Covid-19 has now placed significant additional pressure on Mopani’s operations,” the company said in a statement,” a few weeks ago.
But Glencore was not the only mining company or business entity going through such problems.
Mopani said the review would give it the necessary financial flexibility to navigate the downturn.
But Mopani’s undoing was not to engage Government from the start and the unions, that it planned to close the two mines in Kitwe and Mufulira.
That is what led to mass protests by miners in the two mining towns and Government was quick to step in and defuse the situation.
But even before the dust has settled, another issue has cropped up, that Mopani breached its agreement with the government by cancelling contracts of some mining contractors – again a move that would lead to more job losses.
Government has again through Mines and Minerals Development Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga been holding talks with Mopani to ensure that contracts for some contractors which have been terminated are renewed to avert job losses.
This unending cycle is what we find disturbing, no wonder the increased calls by other stakeholders that new investors be found.
Yes, Government must put its foot down and impress the mining investors that even as the country values their inputs, when it comes to the crunch, Zambian interests must prevail.

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