Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) president Chishimba Nkole says threats by the Mopani Copper mines to lay off 4700 employees following restriction of power supply by the Copperbelt Energy Corporation is intended to intimidate and blackmail the affected stakeholders.

Speaking at a press conference in Lusaka today, Nkole who is also ZCTU president called on government to conclude its negotiations of improving workers conditions of service so that they can be in tandem with the economic hardships.

“MUZ vehemently rejects these intentions by MCM to cut 4700 jobs as reported in their press statement. MUZ also calls on government to intervene on the matter so that MCM does not resort to job cuts. The move appears to be intended to intimidate and blackmail the affected stakeholders and unfortunately workers seem to be easy fix and victims of Mopani and CEC’s failure to negotiate the power supply agreement in good faith,” Nkole said.

Nkole called on government to stop MCM from issuing such threats but instead guarantee the employment of the miners.

“We also warn the nation of the consequences of the impact of the impasse between MCM and CEC on the Copperbelt province, particularly in the towns of Kitwe and Mufulira. Our memories are still fresh on the redundancies that were done by MCM in 2015 involving 4300 mine workers and therefore, the nation cannot afford to lose a further 4700 mine workers as this will push them into abject poverty and squalor,” he said.

“We call on government to stop MCM on these threats of job cuts and guarantee the employment of mine workers at Mopani. MCM could save tremendously if they cut jobs of expatriates rather than touching the local workforce thereby reversing the spirit of job creation for the locals in the mines. Government directed MCM and CEC to negotiate the power increment which is a commercial transaction and MUZ would like to warn that this should not instead translate into cutting jobs. MUZ is pleased that other mining companies have taken on board the power increment by mitigating this cost using other options than cutting on jobs.”

Meanwhile Nkole said the union was concerned with the continued poor conditions of service for workers amidst economic hardships.

“We are calling upon government to be clear and with active responsive in this matter of negotiations for public service workers. We know the options that we take whenever there is nothing coming out, but professionally speaking, government is supposed to follow the steps and show us clearly what the direction is. They have a lot of options legally that they should take. And the effect of the 25 per cent electricity tariff adjustment which will be effected in September will be felt and that is why we are saying that workers conditions should be improved in Zambia, to be in tandem with the economic hardship that we are facing,” said Nkole.

“So we can’t be on the fense and sacrifice when other people are not sacrificing. Because if we remain on a status call and the cost of living is going up, then what are we doing as leaders, and the government and other employers? We have to catch up. So we are very concerned as a union and I think even the public is really affected because the mining industry still remains the main drive of our economy and any turbulence that takes place in the mining industry affects the stakeholders.”