Zambia: Mine workers wildcat strike

First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine, Zambia
First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine, Zambia

Workers at the First Quantum Kansanshi copper mine have been refusing to work since Wednesday when they noticed that an agreed pay rise had not been properly implemented.

Submitted by Steven. on July 13, 2007

Operations at the Canadian-owned plant have been paralysed. reported that the strike started around 05:30 hours when morning shift miners refused to enter the mining premises, claiming they had been underpaid.

A Times reporter found the more than 100 miners gathered at about 100 metres from the main gate around 07:00 hours.

The miners were aggrieved because management did not honour its promise to adjust their salaries after accepting the earlier agreed-upon increment of 12 per cent of the 21 per cent last month. It was agreed that the nine per cent balance would be effected by July 10. However, this did not happen.

While FQMO project manager, Ron Day and other management staff reported for work, night shift miners were gathered near the gate refusing to go home. Miners in the morning shift were also refusing to enter the premises.

Mr Day requested for a meeting with union officials led by FQMO Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) branch chairman, Dustan Kalebwe.

After about an hour, the union officials and FQMO human resources superintendent, Joel Chakana, drove out of the mine premises to brief the miners about the meeting with management.

Mr Kalebwe said management had not exhausted collective agreement negotiations and set Monday for another meeting. He told the miners that Mr Day could not address them outside the mine site.

However, Mr Chakana's plea for the miners to resume work so that management could talk to them through their leaders was only met by jeers, with some saying: "The union has failed us, and we are fed up of your lies?"

Mr Chakana drove back into the mine premises after failing to convince the miners, but Mr Kalebwe remained with the striking workers.

Mr Kalebwe admitted that the miners were unhappy because, after agreeing on a 21 per cent increament, management introduced a new structure, reducing all salaries before affecting the increment.

"If our members refuse to go back, what can we do? We cannot just impose things on them. We were underpaid after agreeing on a 21 per cent increment," Mr Kalebwe said.

Update July 17 2007
The strike lasted for two days