Lumwana Mining Company Limited has dismissed about 10 expatriate staff without citing any reasons.
According to impeccable sources at the Barrick Gold-run mine, some of the expatriates want to fight their dismissal in court so that labour laws can be respected.
“More than 10 people have been laid off, and at least 70 per cent of those have been terminated without cause. This is not in support of the Laws of Zambia. Some of them have taken steps to rectify this situation by getting legal representation. Subsequent to taking this step, Barrick has accelerated the date that these expatriates have to leave site earlier than is stated in their letters of termination. For example, if the letter of termination says your last day of work is the 25th, then after they received a letter from their lawyers, they say ‘you can leave on the 22nd. So essentially, it is just two days notice to get off site, which is unfair,” the sources said.
“Some of them are pushing for extra days since it’s not practical for them to get off site immediately but they’re pushing them to leave so 90 per cent of them will be off site. And among these, there’s also a family which is affected where children and one of the spouses are Zambian and plane tickets have been bought for them, forcing them to leave the country without time to secure their businesses.”
The sources said this had caused some anxiety at the mine as people were wondering how the Zambian workers would be treated.
“It’s been common knowledge on the mine for quite some time that they are going to downsize the workforce by about 30 per cent. But that was just talk and there’s no actual evidence like memos or anything like that. With this Mopani smelter, the roof going down, that has definitely put pressure on them and also, another speculation is that our labour laws here in Zambia have changed and as of May next year, all companies will have to pay gratuity for people leaving fixed term contracts,” the sources said. “Some of the people whose contracts have been terminated would have been owed a lot of money. So they probably knew they’d have had to pay them out. But really, the biggest issue is the manner in which their contracts have been terminated. There’s anxiety because the same might happen to Zambian workers very soon.”
But responding to a press query, Lumwana country manager Nathan Chishimba said Lumwana did not wish to handle this issue in a public manner.
“The only response Lumwana can give is that as a large operation in Zambia, it has a sizeable number of employees, employed directly and through contractors and business partners. In the ordinary course of business, the circumstances surrounding such employees are likely to change from time to time, and individual employees will be advised of their status with the company. While it is the policy of this company to engage with individual employees regarding any grievance they may have with any aspect of their termination or modification to their terms of service, it is not our policy to pursue this process in a public and potentially embarrassing manner, especially if there is a high likelihood that legal action is likely to ensue,” said Chishimba.
“I therefore hope News Diggers will appreciate and respect our inability to respond to any of the issues raised by the aggrieved employees.”