LABOUR and Social Security Minister Brenda Tambatamba says the strike by employees of First Quantum Minerals was a result of a perceived delay by management to implement the unionized preferred pension scheme.

She was responding to a question asked by Kantanshi PF member of parliament Anthony Mumba in Parliament on what caused the riotous behavior by employees at FQM in Solwezi and NFC Africa Mining in Chambishi last month.

“Madam Speaker, the reasons for the work stoppages for Solwezi were around perceived delay and or failure by FQM management to implement the unionized preferred pension scheme as proposed in the 2021 collective agreement. In addition, this was misplaced and contrary to what was in the collective agreement. Further, the workers demanded to be paid cash as opposed to transferring the money into the pension scheme or implement the pension scheme as soon as possible. These demands were clearly inconsistent with the collective agreement and had no support of both management and the unions. You may wish to know that the strike, work stoppage in fact happened when the company and the unions were explaining the pension schemes,” Tambatamba said.

“Madam Speaker, the background to this is that previously the collective agreement provided for a one-month salary for each year served, plus one month salary for each employee when an employee retires normally or is retired on medical grounds or declared redundant. However, an employee will be paid nothing if the employee resigned or was fired. In December 2020, the union felt that that service of condition is not beneficial as most employees would not ordinarily access the benefits. To that end, the union approached management so that a pension scheme could be established. Management agreed and further gave an undertaking to provide an opening balance for each employee who would join the pension scheme. The opening balance would be calculated on the basis of one month’s salary for each year served for each employee from the time the employee started work. Madam Speaker, parties, therefore, agreed to amend the collective agreement so that the collective agreement could factor in the establishment of the pension scheme.”

Tambatamba said all the rioting employees were charged with inciting or participating in an illegal strike while those cited as being ring leaders would also face disciplinary consequences.

“Madam Speaker, about 259 workers at Kansanshi mine went on an illegal strike from the 9th to the 10th of September 2021 without any dispute declared by the unions on the modalities of implementing the pension scheme at the institution. Madam Speaker, the management and the unions at that time tried to speak to the employees and pleaded with them to resume work so that the issues could be resolved amicably, but to no avail. Therefore on the 10th of September 2021, management suspended all the employees in the crews pending further investigations. On the 11th September 2021, all the suspended employees were charged with an offence of inciting or participating in an illegal strike or unjustified work stoppage resulting in loss of production. On the 12th of September 2021, the disciplinary case hearings from all the charged employees started and ended on the 15th of September 2021. Those cited as being ring leaders would face disciplinary consequences. I wish to inform the House that operations have since normalized for the other employees,” she said.

The Minister explained that the employees of NFC African Mining went on a work stoppage over the demand for harmonization of salaries with other mining companies.

“With regards to NFC Africa Mining, employees went on a work stoppage on the 14th of September 2021 over the demand for harmonization of salaries with other mining companies and other conditions of service which in management view, would have been presented to their union representatives as possible proposals for the 2022 collective bargaining process,” said Tambatamba.