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Lungu puts foot down on mines

FILE: PRESIDENT Lungu (right) with First Quantum Minerals Limited director of operations Matt Pascal at Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/ STATE HOUSE.

CHISHALA MUSONDA & MUBANGA NONDO, Ndola
PRESIDENT Lungu says he has not sanctioned retrenchment of miners by mining companies as attributed to him in the international media by one of the mining firms.
The President says he urged the unions and firms to negotiate the future of miners and not rush into retrenching the workforce.
“I have not approved any retrenchment at all. I said the union and the mining companies should meet and talk about the future of their workers and not to throw them on the streets,” President Lungu said in Ndola yesterday.
Speaking at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport on his arrival in Ndola, Mr Lungu assured the miners country-wide that Government would protect their interests.
The President is quoted by online media Bloomberg Business publication of September 21, 2015, saying that he is open to job cuts at Glencore Plc’s local unit – Mopani Copper Mines – as the company faces low copper prices and rising costs.
He has promised to visit the Copperbelt in a week’s time.
“I want to visit the mines and see for myself what the challenges are because I know that there is a statement that has been attributed to us by a mining house that I had sanctioned the retrenchments…which is not true.”
President Lungu also said it is unfair for mining companies to abandon their investment in the country at a time when copper prices are low but offered no incentives when the prices of the metal were high.
“When times are good and they make super profits, they do not increase salaries, so even when times are bad, they should keep those people in employment and wait for good times. That is how you do business.
“You cannot be an investor only when times are good and when they are bad, you withdraw your investment, which we will not allow.
“So, we have made it very clear; we are not going to support retrenchments which will put our people on the street, retrenchments have to be negotiated and agreed upon. When a mining house is acting outside the law, they will find it very difficult to continue operating in Zambia because we have allowed them to operate freely and that does not mean we are weak, no. There are measures we can take,” he said.
The President appealed for calm, saying the Patriotic Front leadership would protect the interest of Zambians.
“We will make sure that you get your fair share from this economy by being paid your wages and if you are going to be laid off, you should be paid within the law and get your package. We are partners, the investors; the Zambian government and the workers are in partnership, so we should be together in times of joy and difficulties.
“I must assure that I am coming back, you have not been abandoned. The Government is in place because of you, so we cannot let you down,” he said.

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