NKWETO MFULA, Chingola
HUNDREDS of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) employees in Chililabombwe yesterday withdrew their labour and went on a protest to demand for a salary increment.
But the company has condemned the work stoppage as illegal.
Government has, however, urged the aggrieved miners to allow dialogue between their employer and their respective labour unions to resolve the matter instead of going on strike.
The miners refused to go underground and closed the main gate of the Konkola business unit leading to shafts one and two at Konkola Mine in the border town.
The employees are demanding for an increase in their salaries which they alleged to have been static for four years.
â€œWe want the management to increase our salaries to meet the current cost of living. We have had no salary increment for almost five years now,â€ said one of the workers who asked not to be identified.
But Minister of Labour and Social Services Joyce Nonde-Simukoko said going on strike is not a solution for any labour disputes.
Mrs Simukoko said differences should be resolved around a table through discussions by both parties.
â€œIf there are any financial problems faced by the mining company, that should be explained to the workers. Strikes are not a solution. We solve problems through discussions,â€ she said.
Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) general secretary Joseph Chewe said the union was holding a meeting to resolve the impasse.
â€œRight now I am in a meeting on the same issue,â€ he said.
But KCM spokesperson Shapi Shachinda said the mining firm regreted that a handful of employees at the Konkola underground mine in Chililabombwe have decided to go on an illegal work stoppage demanding increases in pay.
Mr Shachinda said the protest was in contravention of labour laws since wage negotiations are still underway between management and the unions and no dispute has being declared.
He said in a statement that management and unions had no dispute been declared.
â€œManagement has engaged the employees and their representatives urging them to go back to work immediately,â€ he said.
He said management will continue to engage workersâ€™ representatives to find a lasting solution to the problems the company is facing.
Mr Shachinda stated that since 2014, KCM has faced challenges related to low copper prices and higher cost of power.