MINEWORKERS Union of Zambia, Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (MUZ CEC) branch, says the declaration of CEC’s assets as common carriers arising from Statutory Instrument No. 57 of 2020 will result in a loss of 400 jobs.

In a statement, Union branch chairperson Gift Mwila stated that 400 employees faced potential job losses that might arise from the possible restructuring of CEC’s operations, induced by factors outside the control of the power utility.

She added that the Union was disheartened that the two parties involved had failed to seek solutions amicably.

“CEC branch is concerned about the negative impact on the operations of the Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (CEC) that the declaration of its assets, as common carrier, arising from Statutory Instrument No. 57 of 2020, is likely to have on the company’s continued viability. This worrisome development is compounded by the company being owed a huge debt of more than US $144 million by Konkola Copper Mines Plc (KCM), especially that there is no commitment on the part of KCM as to how and when the debt will be settled,” Mwila stated.

“In view of the foregoing, the MUZ-CEC branch is deeply concerned that without an amicable solution in sight, CEC’s 400 employees, whose interests the Union represents, face potential job losses that may arise from possible restructuring of CEC’s operations induced by factors outside the control of the business; but whose resolution is not impossible if all parties involved are willing to discuss with objectivity and putting the interests of all stakeholders into consideration. The Union is further disheartened that whereas key parties to the matter are expected to be actively and amicably seeking solutions, they have resorted to using the media to throw mud at each other and in the process painting a very bad picture about the country’s investment climate.”

Mwila warned that the current situation posed a serious financial constraint on CEC and that it was evident that the company could not continue to operate and survive in its current state.

“It is worth appreciating that CEC has, even in the toughest of times, been steadfast in protecting jobs and creates quality employment, evidenced by the non-acrimonious negotiations for improved conditions of service that are conducted smoothly every year with ourselves. In the last five years, CEC has employed a lot of youths, some of whom have just started their families. The company has also substantially invested a lot in skills development of its employees, which is evident in the way the company has operated and safeguarded its infrastructure and served its customers. CEC is also a social investor of outstanding repute, well known for its social investments across sectors, including its consistent material and financial support to Power Dynamos Football Club,” Mwila stated.

“As a Union, our hearts are so heavy and if an amicable solution to the challenges that have besieged CEC, in particular the declaration of its infrastructure as common carrier, the non-renewal of the BSA (Bulk Supply Agreement) and KCM’s outstanding debt is not found, such expertise may be thrown in the streets as the current situation poses a serious financial constraint on CEC and it is evident that the company cannot continue to operate and survive in its current state.”

She appealed to government to help Zesco and CEC reconvene on the negotiation table without disadvantaging innocent people.

“We are, therefore, appealing to the government to help Zesco and CEC get back to the negotiating table so that the two parties can reach an amicable solution and get to a win-win situation without disadvantaging the innocent employees. As MUZ-CEC branch, we would like to quote the sentiments by the ruling Patriotic Front secretary general, Mr Davies Mwila, which appeared in the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper dated 13th January, 2020, stating that, ‘government will constitute a task force to look into the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) negotiations between Zesco and CEC. The party has taken interest in the matter being resolved amicably. The party does not want anyone to lose employment if the contract is not renewed.’ However, the story seems to have changed after the Minister of Energy issued SI No. 57 of 2020 on 29th May, 2020,” lamented Mwila.

“Nonetheless, we are hopeful that our listening government will reconsider the position taken. We also make an appeal to KCM to reciprocate CEC’s goodwill of having continued to supply power to them even when they defaulted by expeditiously settling its over US $144m outstanding debt to CEC. As a Union and employees’ representatives, our special and humble appeal goes to the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, to come to our aid by restoring CEC to its original position so that both its business and the future of employees are safeguarded.”